I am still so surprised by how much misinformation there is about Medicaid’s Look Back Period. Is it 3 years? Is it 30 months? What exactly is the Medicaid Look Back Period?
As we all know, Medicaid is a means-tested program that provides health insurance to those who qualify for it. That is, you have to pass certain income and asset tests in order to qualify for Medicaid. In an effort to become eligible for Medicaid, some individuals would artificially impoverish themselves by giving away their assets to family members or to a trust in order to qualify for the benefits. Our federal and state governments responded by implementing a look back period to monitor and penalize any transfers that were made prior to applying for Medicaid. Currently, Medicaid looks at all transfers made during the 60 months prior to applying for Medicaid. They then penalize the applicant by not paying for their care for one month for every $6,768 given away.
For example, if a nursing home resident transferred a house worth $67,000 to his son, Medicaid will assess a 10-month penalty against that beneficiary and won’t pay the nursing home bill for those 10 months (and the resident will be responsible for the total cost of the nursing home).
As with most rules, though, there are exceptions to the look back period and the penalty. There are circumstances in which assets can be transferred without incurring a penalty. Transfers can be made to the following individuals penalty-free:
• A spouse;
• A child who is under age 21 or who is blind or disabled;
• A sibling who has an ownership interest in the house; or
• A “caretaker child,” who is defined as a child of the applicant who lived in the house for at least two years prior to the applicant’s institutionalization and who during that period provided care that allowed the applicant to avoid a nursing home stay.
You can give away your assets and still qualify for Medicaid, but there are consequences. And the rules are tricky, so be sure to consult with a knowledgeable, experienced Certified Elder Law Attorney. If you or someone you know has questions about how these rules could work for them, please call our office for a complimentary consultation at (404) 843-0121.