New Law Restricts Medicaid Planning

On February 1st Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, intended to severely limit the ability of seniors to protect their assets and qualify for Medicaid coverage of their nursing home care. It significantly changes rules on transfers of assets, protection of homes, and the use of annuities.

The new law extends Medicaid's "lookback" period for all asset transfers from three to five years and makes those with valuable houses ineligible for Medicaid long-term care coverage. But the most significant change is that it also shifts the start of the penalty period for transferred assets from the date of transfer, as is the case now, to the date when the individual would qualify for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care if not for the transfer. In other words, the penalty period would not begin until the nursing home resident was out of funds, meaning there would be no money to pay the nursing home for however long the penalty period lasts. Innocent gifts to grandchildren could, years later, result in extended periods without any long-term care coverage of any kind

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