If you have considerable assets, it's important to protect your hard-earned resources. At 65 years old, Medicare benefits begin, but this is not the same for Medicaid benefits. Many consumers get confused between the two, and believe they are interchangeable. The difference is that Medicare is health insurance for people over 65, while Medicaid covers long-term nursing home needs for those that can no longer afford it.
Medicaid Has a Five Year Look Back Period
This means that if you have transferred assets to your children, grandchildren, or other recipients, you can be penalized if these assets were transferred in the five-year period prior to the date of you entering a nursing home and needing long-term care. Medicaid is a welfare program for people who no longer have any assets. Any assets given away, put in a trust, or transferred five years or more are not considered when you apply for Medicaid.
Qualifying for Medicaid Benefits
If you have $100,000 in the bank at the time you enter the nursing home, you are expected to pay for the cost of the nursing home (approximately $10,000) a month, until your money runs out. Once your assets are gone, you will qualify for Medicaid benefits. If you want to leave money to any heirs, it is critical to be proactive, before you have the need for long-term care.
Poor Planning Can Result in Penalties for Giving Away Assets During the Look Back Period
Poor planning can cause all kinds of problems when you need long-term care but you can't afford it. If you gave away all of your assets during the previous five years, Medicaid can deny you coverage, and you will be scrambling to recover these assets in order to pay for a nursing home. The only way to avoid these penalties is to meet with an estate planning attorney (such as one from Mackevich, Burke & Stanicki) and discuss your options.
Once You Qualify for Medicaid
Once you are in a nursing home long term and you have qualified for Medicaid, it is imperative to understand that any social security or pension benefits you receive go directly to the facility you are living in. You are allowed to keep a small stipend (roughly $90 a month) for your needs, and if you have not planned ahead, this is all you will have available to you. Qualifying for Medicaid means your medical bills will be covered, but you will have little spending money every month if you have not set aside a small trust for your personal needs.