To qualify for nursing home Medicaid, applicants must show that they have a limited amount of countable assets. These rules can be very confusing, and most families worry that their loved one cannot qualify for Medicaid.
Currently, Georgia residents must have less than $2,000 in countable assets in order to qualify for nursing home Medicaid. So what exactly is counted in that $2,000 limit?
Almost all liquid resources are counted towards the $2,000 limit. Here is a simplified list:
- Bank and Investment Accounts: Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds, Checking Accounts, Savings Accounts, Certificates of Deposit, Money Market Accounts and Brokerage Accounts.
- Life Insurance Policies: The cash value of whole life or other life insurance policies is counted as an asset if the burial exclusion maximum has been reached with other assets (see below).
- Other Assets: Any money, property (e.g., timeshares, rental property, recreational vehicles, etc.), or items that can be valued and turned into cash is a countable asset (unless it is on the listed Exempt Assets—see below).
There are some assets that are not counted towards the $2,000 limit. Here is a list of those exempt assets:
- Home Place: The applicant’s house and all adjoining land and all buildings on the property are excluded from resources if the equity value of the home is $525,000 or less (presuming the applicant is not married).
- Household Goods: Household items including furniture, decorations, art, and appliances are excluded. Personal items such as clothing and jewelry are excluded.
- Items excluded for burial: The applicant can (each) have up to $10,000 designated for burial expenses. This can consist of a prepaid funeral contract with a funeral home or funds designated for burial in a bank account. The face value of life insurance is applied toward the burial exclusion amount first.
- Burial Space Items: Burial plots for the applicant and immediate family are excluded as well as certain other items at the burial site. There is no dollar limit on the cost or value of the burial space items.
- Life Estate Interests: The applicant’s life estate interests are excluded.
- Automobiles: One automobile is excluded regardless of value and whether or not it is in use. Note that junked or recreational vehicles are counted as resources.
- Retirement Funds: Retirement funds such as IRAs, 401(k)s, and pensions are excludable resources if they are being distributed in periodic payments that include a portion of principal. These payments are counted as income in the month received.
- Unavailable Assets: Assets that cannot be converted to cash within 30 days.
After all assets have been categorized as countable or exempt, Medicaid eligibility can be determined. So, what can be done if the countable assets total more than $2,000? Can the excess just be given away? Medicaid does have a 60-month look back period that penalizes a person for giving away assets. So, assets cannot just be given away or transferred to another person. Many families face the choice of simply spending down their assets on care until all assets have been depleted or of working with an experienced elder law attorney to preserve as many assets as possible. With the correct advance planning a person can protect significantly more than $2,000 and still qualify for Medicaid.
If you are curious about how Medicaid eligibility rules can apply to you, please call our office for a complimentary phone consultation at 404-843-0121.