Nursing home Medicaid is a benefit provided by the Federal government and administered by the Georgia Department of Community Health. Nursing home Medicaid pays for the entire cost of a nursing home, with patient copay. To qualify to receive nursing home Medicaid, an applicant must show that their health necessitates a stay in a nursing home and the applicant must meet financial requirements. One of the requirements is that for a single nursing home Medicaid applicant they can have no more than $2,000 in unexempt assets. Unexempt assets include cash, checking, savings, investments, and other forms of savings.
In an attempt to reduce the amount of assets that count against Medicaid qualification, applicants routinely give away assets. This creates a program, as in most cases the giving away of assets will cause a penalty period for Medicaid. During this penalty period, the applicant is ineligible to receive nursing home Medicaid. The calculation of the penalty period fluctuates, but is typically around one month for every $6,000 worth of unexempt assets given away. For example, if a nursing home Medicaid applicant gave away $54,000, they would be ineligible for Medicaid for roughly 9 months. One issue that many applicants who give away resources do not take into account is that the penalty period does not automatically run when the gift is made. In the example, the 9 months penalty period does not begin on the moment of the gift, but instead begins when the applicant is “otherwise eligible for Medicaid.” For the penalty period to begin to run, the Medicaid applicant must be currently eligible for Medicaid, ignoring the penalty period. This means that if a Medicaid applicant has assets over the asset limit or excess income, the penalty period will not lapse, until nine months after assets are reduced.
The services of a law firm experienced in elder law are critical when planning for an immediate need for nursing home Medicaid. An experienced elder law attorney can guide an applicant in legal ways to reduce the penalty period and ensure that it begins to lapse as soon as possible. An elder law firm will also have the experience in documenting the status to the Georgia Department of Community Health to ensure fast approval of a Medicaid application.