The cost of nursing home care can wipe out the life savings of all but the wealthiest families. While Medicaid can cover the cost of nursing home care, eligibility for the Medicaid nursing home benefit is need-based. An individual must fall below very restrictive asset limits before they become eligible for Medicaid nursing home coverage.

Applying for Medicaid nursing home coverage is a complicated, time-consuming procedure. Individuals may be tempted to rely on nursing home staff to help guide them them through the process. However, this reliance could result in mistakes that could unnecessarily cost an individual thousands of dollars or even the loss of the family home.

A major problem with relying on the advice of nursing home staff when applying for Medicaid is that their job is to provide care for the people in residence and to ensure that they get paid for their services. What happens to their residents and their families after they leave the nursing home is generally not their concern. If a resident is fearing an inability to pay, the nursing home’s incentive is to get the resident on Medicaid as quickly as possible to assure their continued payments even if that may not be in the best financial interests of the resident and their family.

Regardless, nursing home staff are also not qualified to give legal advice. The concepts regarding Medicaid eligibility and available planning techniques can be complex. Even among people involved in the nursing home business many misconceptions abound. For example, one major misconception involves how a Medicaid applicant’s primary home is treated. While the primary residence generally does not count toward the Medicaid asset limit, that does not mean that the home is protected in the long term. The state Medicaid agency can still impose a lien on the house after the death of a Medicaid recipient. Often, the family must then sell the family home to satisfy the lien.

The potential of a forced sale, and other unnecessary expenses, can often be avoided through planning with an experienced elder law attorney. While the best planning to protect assets is done years in advance of a potential nursing home stay, even people already in a nursing home and on the verge of considering applying for Medicaid nursing coverage can significantly benefit from planning with an elder law attorney.

Medicaid laws and regulations can vary significantly from state to state and change over time. The Medicaid program may also operate under a different name in different states. The Missouri Medicaid program is called MO HealthNet. It is therefore important to meet with an experienced, local elder law attorney to develop a plan that meets your particular needs before applying for Medicaid nursing home coverage.

To develop a plan for your potential application for Medicaid nursing home coverage, please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.