In helping families get a loved one qualified to receive Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home care, I am often asked asked are there legal asset transfers and Medicaid pays nursing home care.

if is’it legal to transfer assets to get Medicaid to pay for nursing home care.  Congress has established a period of ineligibility for Medicaid for those who transfer assets. For transfers made prior to February 8, 2006, state Medicaid officials would look only at transfers made within the 36 months prior to the Medicaid application (or 60 months if the transfer was made to or from certain kinds of trusts). But for transfers made after February 8, 2006, the so-called “look-back” period for all transfers is 60 months.

While the look-back period determines what transfers will be penalties, the length of the penalty depends on the amount transferred. The penalty period is determined by dividing the amount transferred by the average monthly cost of nursing home care in the state. For instance, if the nursing home resident transferred $100,000 in a state where the average monthly cost of care was $5,000, the penalty period would be 20 months ($100,000/$5,000 = 20). The 20-month period will not begin until (1) the transferor has moved to a nursing home, (2) he has spent down to the asset limit for Medicaid eligibility, (3) has applied for Medicaid coverage, and (4) has been approved for coverage but for the transfer. Therefore, if an individual transfers $100,000 on April 1, 2010, moves to a nursing home on April 1, 2011, and spends down to Medicaid eligibility on April 1, 2012, that is when the 20-month penalty period will begin, and it will not end until December 1, 2013.

Transfers should be made carefully, with an understanding of all the consequences. People who make transfers must be careful not to apply for Medicaid before the five-year look-back period elapses without first consulting with an elder law attorney. This is because the penalty could ultimately extend even longer than five years, depending on the size of the transfer.

My firm has been helping Texas families for many years navigate the issues surrounding getting Medicaid benefits to pay for a family member’s nursing home care.  We do not charge for the initial consultation so please contact me today if there are any questions you have about what needs to be done to get Medicaid benefits to help pay for nursing home care.  The phone numbers to call are 1-866-KNOW.LAW (866-566-9529) (TOLL FREE) or 972-772-6100 or you can email me at I hope this first in a three part series on getting qualified for Medicaid benefits will help provide information and answer questions on are there legal asset transfers and Medicaid pays nursing home care.

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