When we run out of our savings, how long do we have to wait to apply for Medicaid?

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My husband and I are over 80 years old. We own our house and a car. We also have some savings in the bank. Some people have suggested that we put that money under our daughter's name (she lives in another city), but we don't think it's legal. Both of us have health issues, especially my husband who lately suffered two strokes and was left with many limitations. My question is what will happen if we live long enough to use up all our savings. Right now we live on what we get from Social Security, but since it's not enough for to cover all our needs, including hospital and medication co payments, the savings are decreasing day by day. If that day comes, what can we do to meet our financial needs. Our daughter is not in the position of helping us. Is there a waiting period between our assets are almost used up and qualifying for Medicaid?

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I'm a retired nursing home administrator and have a different perspective on this issue. I've taken care of millionaires who legally transferred assets and were eligible for Medicaid. First, there is a legal answer to your question that is best answered by an elder attorney. The look back period is a federal regulation and is the same for all states (five years).
Second, this issue also has ethical implications. Nursing homes do not make any money on Medicaid reimbursement. This is problematic for both for profit and nonprofit facilities as both have rising operational costs and reimbursement from Medicaid is designed to not allow a profit and is retroactive in its cost adjustment (18-24 months in some states). The point here is that as more people "plan" to avoid paying the non-Medicaid or private charge for nursing home care, the fewer residents are contributing to the basic business that makes a nursing home succeed in terms of being able to offer competitive pay/benefits, more nursing staff, better activities, etc. There is a STRONG correlation between those facilities that have a majority of Medicaid residents and low star ratings on Medicare's Nursing Home Compare site. And the kicker here for me is that there are numerous responses on this website that think nursing homes are terrible places and money grabbers but the same people would scheme to hide assets and deny paying their fair share. Medicaid was established to ensure that those who truly need care are able to receive it, not to ensure that the more fortunate could have their cake and eat it too.
Third, there is an irony here as well. The fastest growing line item in almost every state budget is the Medicaid expense for long term care. This is due, in large part, to families transferring assets to avoid paying for nursing home care. Twenty years ago I was administrator in a facility that had about 60% of its residents paying privately. This facility is now averaging only 12% private pay. As the facility has had to rely on Medicaid reimbursement as its primary source of revenue, staffing has been reduced and resident satisfaction has declined, as one would expect.
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There IS a "look back" period so do check this out...you are allowed to gift a certain amt each yr to a person. My siblings tried to convince my parent to give us each that certain amt, then we each would set it aside for our parent. We would not touch it...but would be there for an emergency for THEM ALONE...so proud of all of us siblings, we set aside and never touched the funds we had, and were blessed to not have to use them for our parent...We Told our Father, we didn't want his money, as his GIFT to us is that he financially took care of himself.
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Consulting with an elder care attorney is definitely a smart move but will cost you some money. Just yesterday there was an article that came out here on AgingCare.com named "5 Strategies to Protect your Money from Medicare". It has some good recommendations you might want to read,
I'm the POA to my parents who are now 90 & 94. If you haven't chosen a trusted family member to watch over your best interest, this is the time to do it while you are of sound mind and body. My parents selected me in their 80s. Now I handle everything for them. It's difficult to think about, but health, memory and ability to care for yourselves, your home and finances will become more and more difficult. You need someone who will be with you every step of the way. I have access to all their accounts and make all the transactions for them as they are no longer able to. Even though I live in the West coast and they live in the East coast.
It sounds like you may be needing more help sooner than later with you husbands limitations. Downsizing might be the logical next step. There is a 5 year look back with Medicare. So the question is where do you see you self in 5 years? In our situation, my parents lived in their own home, had their own car and other assets. My mother started to fall and injure herself often. It was clear that they could not keep up the house, the bills and my dad was taxed from caring for mom. So together we made the decision to sell all their assets and move to an independent living. It was a good first step. They were able to use the funds from the house and car to pay for it, while having transportation provided, maid service and meal prepared for them while dad cared for mom. As time went by mom needed more help and we got ancillary help to come in. Of course this can get expensive and when it was clear that dad was slowing down, I moved them into assisted living. We are now getting to the point where all their assets are spending down and Medicare is the next option. My point is, don't hold on to your assets if you think you are going to need the funds from them. Putting them in your daughter's name is not illegal but Medicare will know with their 5 yr look back. The funds might serve you better in finding a place that can give you the assistance you need now. Many expenses that come along with owning a home/car will be gone, your life will be simplified to allow you both to focus on your health and well being. Get your daughter involved and together you can make the best choices for you.
Best of luck.
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There is a "look back" period, so if you put money in someone's name, it may still be considered as your asset. You need to find out the laws in your state. Maybe find a lawyer, but ask around and don't get hustled by someone who wants 5K up front to do little to nothing.
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With Medicaid each State is different, thus each has their own rules, regulations, and programs.

Glad you are planning ahead for when the time comes. Check with your State Medicaid office for their requirements and start working on those requirements to give you a head start, or at least learn what is available.

How expensive is it to keep up your house? Utilities, property taxes, maintenance, repairs? Some seniors find it is time to downsize into something more manageable. Since you own your home, use some of that equity as a safety net for any future medical issues.
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It really is time for an elder law or at least an estate planning consultation. They can help with both the math and the rules and regs part. There are terms such as "spend-down," "exempt assets" and "Miller Trust" you may need to learn about, and POA documents to get in order. Make sure whoever you choose is knowledgeable about Medicaid in your state. (Don't let some out-of-state outfit sell you a near-worthless long term care insurance plan with a bunch of flattery and bad advice like MY folks did.) There is not necessarily a waiting period when you reach the threshold of low enough assets before Medicaid kicks in , the way there is for most disability income. I wish you well and it is a huge plus that you are ready to do the planning you need for yourselves!!
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I keep seeing 'Medicaid' and 'Medicare' being used here interchangeably.

Medicaid and Medicare are TWO DIFFERENT PROGRAMS. Medicare will not pay one red cent for nursing home or assisted living. It will pay for hospitalization for certain amount of time, and other things.

When you spend down, and have nothing, Medicaid will pay for some of your nursing home. (Doubtful about assisted living). They will take your social security check and pension, if any, and your house.

Two different things.
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The lookback period is 5 years.
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As a response to the comments on long term care insurance, there are many variables to consider. Doglover35 noted up front that they were in their eighties, which is far too late for any long term care ins carrier to pick up. My experience with long term care policies is not especially good. Insurance companies frequently will try to deny the claim, especially if the claimant is in assisted living vs. a skilled nursing facility. The devil is truly in the details of these policies. A good policy will have an inflation index and pay a large proportion of the facility charges, but you pay a lot for these policies. I think these policies are only good for those who are very risk aversive and have substantial assets to protect. There is a better than 50/50 chance that a person over 65 will need skilled nursing care at some point in her/his life but this includes short term stays that are covered by Medicare. Only 5% of those over 65 are in nursing homes. The chances are higher if there is a family history of dementia, as about 50% of all residents in nursing care facilities are there due to the effects of dementia.
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Someone informed me, a few years ago, that a child could receive a cash 'gift' of several thousand dollars - at any time! So mom gave me a cash gift under $10K, and about a year later.... I wondered about that. (maybe before the 5 year lookback time it would have been OK.) So I put it back into mom's checking account. A year after that I was applying for Medicaid for her, and you better believe they spotted that check made to me and questioned it! I assured them I had 'repaid the loan' back to mom. Whew!
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