If you or a loved one is already living in a nursing home or will be moving there soon, it is not too late to evaluate your eligibility for Medicaid to cover your nursing home costs. You can also still take action to protect assets Medicaid considers “countable” for nursing home patients to qualify for coverage. Several options would be available to protect assets within the rules of Medicaid eligibility.
Nursing Home Medicaid Crisis Planning
Medicaid considers your financial situation from the day you enter the nursing home and apply for Medicaid as a baseline, a “snapshot” of your assets as a reference point for their evaluation. You are entitled to keep some assets that are considered “non‐countable” for Medicaid purposes when considering your eligibility. Generally, the assets exempt from consideration are the following:
- Your home, up to certain equity limits
- Personal belongings such as clothing and jewelry, as well as furniture and other household items
- One motor vehicle, as long as it is used as transportation for you or a member of your household
- A designated funeral fund for you with a value of up to $1,500 or a prepaid funeral plan of a reasonable amount, typically up to $10,000
- A life insurance policy with a face value of $1,500 or less
- If you are married and your spouse’s total income does not reach the statutory minimum, certain other assets may be deemed exempt in order to raise your spouse’s total income up to the minimum.
Protect Assets Counted by Medicaid
Beyond these exemptions, most of your assets are considered in arriving at the $2,000 limit Medicaid allows. Even though you may be in crisis mode, or may already be a nursing home resident, there are still some strategies you might use to protect life savings nursing home costs would soon deplete and still remain within the strict Medicaid guidelines.
One option that may still be available to you is the possibility of spend‐down with excess assets being moved into exempt categories. For example, you could buy a newer vehicle, pay for certain home improvements and repairs, purchase new furniture, and prepay funeral arrangements for yourself and your spouse. Another strategy is to establish an Irrevocable Medicaid Trust which will provide some income for you or your spouse; then after your death, the trust would reimburse Medicaid and possibly allow for some remaining balance to go to your heirs.
Since the Medicaid rules are complex, and you may already be experiencing confusion and stress over your crisis situation, we urge you to seek qualified, competent assistance from a Medicaid planning attorney.
You can help make the transition to Medicaid more efficient by gathering the information you will need for your Medicaid case application. Our helpful Checklist of Documents Needed for a Medicaid Case is available here.
The experienced professionals at Glenn A. Deig, Attorney at Law, are available to assist you in your crisis Medicaid planning and help lighten your load at this stressful time.