Will Medicaid Take My Home?

Medicaid and Medicare are two government programs available to seniors that can be very confusing.  Medicaid is a federal government program, administered through the states, that will cover almost every expense associated with nursing care for those who qualify. Medicare is a health insurance program for people over age 65 or for people under age 65 with certain disabilities.
Medicaid is frequently used for people who require full-time or skilled nursing care. In Virginia, Medicaid will provide benefits for a nursing home or for some limited in-home care service
The eligibility requirements for Medicaid are very strict and there can be significant penalties imposed for not following the rules. In Virginia, a single person can have no more than $2,000 in countable assets. For a married couple, the spouse applying for Medicaid may have no more than $2,000 and the spouse still living in the community may keep up to $109,560 in countable assets. This doesn’t mean that every community spouse may keep $109,560. It means that this is the maximum in countable resources that the community spouse is allowed. The rules on how to calculate the amount that a community spouse may keep depend on what assets the couple has when the institutionalized spouse enters the hospital or nursing home. Also, not every asset is countable for Medicaid purposes. For instance, an individual applying for Medicaid is allowed to have one personal vehicle as an exempt asset.
The biggest question I get is whether Medicaid will take your home. I frequently find that there is a lot of misinformation on this subject as well, so we will clear that up here today. In Virginia, Medicaid does not “take” anything from anyone. What happens is that the assets of the couple (or individual, if not married) are looked at as of the date that the ill spouse (or single individual) first entered the hospital or nursing home for a period of thirty days or longer. This is called the “snapshot date”. If the couple (or single individual) has too much in countable resources, they will be required to spend those excess resources before becoming eligible for Medicaid. This is called “spending down”.  Once those extra assets are spent down, they can then apply for Medicaid. The good news is that, for a married couple, as long as the community spouse remains in the home, it is NOT a countable resource and is not counted for Medicaid purposes. For a single person, the home is exempt for the first six months, but after that a “good faith effort to sell” must be made. This does not mean that the person must actually sell their home before getting Medicaid.  This is where people can get themselves into trouble, so it would wise to seek counsel from an elder law attorney before attempting this on your own.
Each week I hear stories from my clients about advice and ideas that they get from others. Most of the time the information is either incorrect or is not correct for that person’s situation. It is imperative that you discuss your individual situation with an elder law attorney. You need someone who can look at all pieces of the puzzle and give you accurate advice to create a long-term care plan that works for your family. Don’t rely on third-hand information. Going straight to a professional will save you time, money and heartache in the future.
This blog post is not intended to provide legal counsel or to be a substitute for legal counsel. We assume no responsibility for any errors, omissions or any damage resulting from the use of this information.

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