What Is Medicaid? (Transcript)
D. "Rep" DeLoach III, Estate Planning and Board Certified Elder Law Attorney
So Medicaid is part of our social safety net that pays for an elderly person or a disabled person's long-term care, if you were to get sick, if you were to have a stroke, a car accident, or if you fall a break your hip and you're no longer able to live at home. And if you fall within the financial guidelines of the Medicaid system, then Medicaid can help pay for your stay in the nursing home, an assisted living facility, or maybe even at home. So as part of our social safety net, the Medicaid program is needs-based. Not just anyone can access it. If you have money, the government wants you to spend your own money in order to access Medicaid. So for instance, the nursing home is very expensive. The nursing home could be nine to $10,000 a month, if not more. The nursing home being so expensive, in order for Medicaid to pay for mom in the nursing home, mom's only allowed to have $2,000 in assets as a single person.
In Pinellas County, there are 84 nursing homes. And people say, "All right, well, will Medicaid give my mom good care in the nursing home?" And all 100% of the nursing homes in Pinellas County accept Medicaid. So if mom falls and breaks a hip and she can never leave the nursing home again due to her health, our social safety net's going to pay for that. The main thing is you just have to access it where your assets and your income have to be below certain guidelines. Again, for a single person, they're only allowed to have $2,000 in countable assets, and they're still allowed to own their homestead property, but you have to figure out what can be done to legally protect the assets. And there are things that could be done.
The key, basically, you just can't give the money away. If mom's in the nursing home now, she can't go write a check to all of her kids and give the money away because the government says, "No, you can't do that." There's a five-year Medicaid look-back period where you can't give assets, where you can't do transfers because that would interfere with her Medicaid benefits. So if you think about it, everyone's concerned about it, right, says, "Well, if my mom ends up in the nursing home or if I end up in a nursing home, what do I do to protect my assets?" And every situation's going to be different. But if you have a good attorney and you have a good power of attorney, there are legal things that can be done to protect assets, even if mom's already in the nursing home.