A stay in a nursing home can potentially wipe out the life savings of all but the wealthiest families. Medicaid does cover nursing home stays, but since Medicaid is a needs based program, individuals must be below relatively strict financial limits to qualify for Medicaid nursing home coverage.

While assets such as the family home, car, and basic furnishings do not, within limits, count toward Medicaid financial limits, collectibles and antiques are assets that can affect Medicaid eligibility. Collectible or antique items could include coins, sports memorabilia, art, vintage cars, military relics, or just about anything of value beyond home furnishings.

When applying for Medicaid, individuals have an obligation to disclose their assets as part of the application process. Medicaid also looks back at the past five years of transactions. Even if nothing is disclosed on the current assets, if there are clear dealings with valuable collectibles, the state Medicaid agency may investigate further to root out potentially hidden assets.

Additionally, gifts and below market sales made within the five years prior to applying for Medicaid get added back to an applicant’s current assets to determine Medicaid eligibility. This means that individuals cannot simply give away their valuables to family members and friends today and not have those assets affect their Medicaid eligibility tomorrow.

It should be noted that Medicaid rules can vary significantly from state to state. Missouri’s Medicaid program is known as MO HealthNet. What is an exempt asset and the exact limits of various exemptions are amongst the things where states can differ in their Medicaid implementations.

These differences are some of the reasons why individuals should always meet with a local elder law attorney before either applying for Medicaid or doing any Medicaid planning.

With proper Medicaid planning, individuals can preserve their collected assets and life savings for their spouse and future beneficiaries. Medicaid planning is most effective when done years in advance of a potential Medicaid application. However, even if a nursing home stay is imminent, Medicaid planning with a local elder law attorney can still prove highly financially beneficial versus applying for Medicaid without guidance.