In the past, to avoid exceeding Medicaid’s income and asset limits, many individuals transferred their assets into the name of other relatives, particularly when nursing home care was immediately needed. Now, Medicaid takes into account all asset transfers made in the preceding five years prior to an application for Medicaid benefits (this period is called the “look-back” period). If such asset transfers were made, Medicaid may assess a penalty period, which will delay the commencement of Medicaid benefits.
However, as discussed below, it is crucial to understand that not all assets are counted for Medicaid benefits determination and that some asset transfers will not impact (or be included in) the “look-back” period.
As Florida Medicaid Planning Attorneys serving Orlando, Winter Park, and the surrounding communities, we are frequently asked about how Medicaid planning may benefit clients, often in the course of contemplating, entering, or even after being admitted to a nursing home. We invite you to contact us about your Medicaid planning concerns, questions, or needs.
Asset Transfer Matters
How Are the Medicaid Look Back Penalty Periods Calculated in Florida?
The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 made certain types of asset transfers more difficult to accomplish by creating a five-year “look back” period for all asset transfers. If applicable, penalty periods are calculated by dividing the transferred amount by the average price of Florida nursing home care.
For example, if an individual transfers $70,000 in assets, and the average nursing home cost in Florida is $7,000 per month, Medicaid assistance will be unavailable until the person pays the cost of the nursing home care for 10 months ($70,000 ÷ $7,000 = 10). These penalty periods are not capped, meaning that there is no limit to the number of months that the senior may be ineligible for benefits.
Are All Transfers Counted in the Medicaid “Look-Back” Period?
While the prospect of a penalty period may be cause for concern, an important caveat must be considered – not all transfers are counted in the look-back period. Assets not counted in the “look-back” period include transfers to:
- A spouse (or to a person acting for a spouse’s benefit)
- A child under the age of twenty-one
- A permanently disabled or blind child
- An adult child who lives in the home and who has provided care to the individual for at least two years prior to the submission of the Medicaid application
- A brother or sister who has an equity interest in the home and who has been living in the home for one year prior to the submission of the Medicaid application
If you have extensive assets and do not have adequate financial planning mechanisms in place, qualifying for Medicaid can be problematic. If you anticipate needing Medicaid benefits, it is important to review your financial situation with an experienced Florida Medicaid attorney as soon as possible to help ensure that transfers are made in a manner that avoids the Medicaid look-back period or lessens its effects.
Article provided by Kathleen Flammia, Attorney at Law, one of Florida’s TOP Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorneys. Attorney Flammia is a Member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, and she and her firm are Featured in ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources to help families plan for and deal with the issues of Aging.