Say that an investment house in New Jersey worth $300,000 is passed from mother to daughter for sale of $1 today. Just two years later, the mother applies for Medicaid. (In Maine Medicaid is called MaineCare) There’s a look-back penalty period that will apply, says nj.com in the recent article, “If mom sells her house for $1, what Medicaid penalty will apply?” The article explains that when someone applies for Medicaid, gifts create periods of Medicaid ineligibility.
A Medicaid applicant is required by the government to document all of her financial transactions during the "look-back period." That period is five years immediately prior to the date of application.
If the applicant’s financial records show a transfer of assets within that period, the Medicaid administrators will presume that the assets were transferred to promote eligibility for Medicaid benefits. This could be a check or withdrawal, for which there is no explanation other than a gift.
The value of the transfer will be divided by the statewide daily nursing home rate to get the number of months of the ineligibility, also known as the penalty period. In New Jersey, that rate is currently $343.85, or $10,459 per month.
The five-year year look-back period commences when the transfer is made. However, the penalty period of ineligibility starts on the date the applicant is otherwise eligible for medical assistance under the State plan, but for the application of the penalty period.
So, in our $1 house example, if the New Jersey Medicaid applicant transferred $300,000, the monthly penalty period of ineligibility for this transfer would be calculated by dividing $300,000 by $10,459, which equals 28.68 months of ineligibility. There is no rounding down, by the way.
The penalty period would start when the applicant medically needs an institutional level of care, has countable resources below $2,000 and has filed a Medicaid application to establish that she would have been otherwise eligible but for the asset transfer. Note: there’s no limit on the length of the penalty period.
Thus, assuming the applicant otherwise would have qualified for Medicaid but for the asset transfer, the applicant wouldn’t be eligible for Medicaid for an additional 28.68 months.
However, if the application was made more than 60 months after the transfer date, then the transfer would be outside of the 60-month lookback period and, if no other transfers were made, then no penalty period would be imposed, and the applicant would be eligible 61 months after the transfer date.
Contact an elder law attorney in your state to learn how the rules would apply under local law. There are a number of strategic asset protection tools available, but they must be completed in a timely fashion.
Reference: nj.com (December 25, 2018) “If mom sells her house for $1, what Medicaid penalty will apply?”