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Consumer
Keep up with Medicaid proposed changes requirements
RICHMOND, Va. (9/18/12)--Medicare has drawn a lot of attention in recent political campaigns, but if you're one of millions of seniors who fear long-term care needs will outlast resources, pay close attention to the details about Medicaid as well (Richmond Times-Dispatch Sept. 9).

Although the eligibility requirements to get Medicaid coverage for nursing-home care vary by state, knowing what it takes to qualify in general today will help you shed clarity on proposed and ongoing changes in the program:

  • Most states require that you have no more than about $2,000 in assets such as cash, savings, investments, or other financial resources that can be turned into cash. This does not include your home--if, in most states, it's valued at less than $525,000. Nor does it include your personal possessions and household goods, one vehicle, prepaid funeral plans, and a small amount of life insurance.
  • If, after your nursing home stay, you can't return to your home, Medicaid can take the proceeds of your house to help reimburse nursing home costs unless your spouse or other dependent relative lives in the home.
  • Once you qualify, you must turn over to Medicaid almost all sources of income, such as Social Security and pension checks, to pay for your care.
  • Just in case you wonder about giving away assets to qualify faster, Medicaid officials will look at your financial records for the past five years to find suspicious asset transfers.
  • If you enter a nursing home and your spouse remains at home, Medicaid has special rules allowing your healthy spouse to keep half of your joint assets up to about $114,000. That amount varies state by state. The healthy spouse also may keep the house, furniture, household goods, and one automobile, as well as a portion of your joint monthly income.
Call your local Medicaid office (call 800-633-4227 for local contact information) or contact a local State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor (shiptalk.org or 800-677-1116) for eligibility details.
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