Medicaid is a need-based health care program that many older adults end up utilizing in the event of long-term care due to the expenses involved. Since Medicaid is need-based, there are limits on the amount of income and assets a party can have. An individual should plan ahead to make sure any countable assets and income are structured so as not to affect any future applications for Medicaid. Additionally, individuals may want to shield assets such that Medicaid cannot assert a claim against their estate after their death for their subsidized medical expenses. Appropriate estate planning can assist in this regard. Medicaid can look back five years from the date of an application so it is important to do any relevant estate planning well in advance.
Certain assets are not countable in terms of eligibility for Medicaid. One of the big exemptions is your home. Current federal law allows one residence to be exempt with a cap of $560,000 for the total equity of the home. Even if the home is above that amount of equity, it may still be exempt if a spouse, child under 18 or permanently disabled child is still residing in the home. In terms of income, a party seeking Medicaid cannot have more than $2,000 per month income. There are additional rules as far as assets your spouse can keep under the anti-impoverishment provision. It is important to look at your estate plan well before the need for any long term care arises to protect your assets and estate while maintaining the ability to use Medicaid to assist with medical costs. By April M. Townsend