In order to understand Medicaid qualification, you first need to know how Medicaid treats your assets.
Basically, Medicaid breaks your assets down into two separate categories. The first are those assets which are exempt and the second are those assets which are non-exempt or countable.
Exempt assets are those which Medicaid will not take into account (at least for the time being). While the laws in Connecticut differ in some respects, generally the following assets are exempt:
The home - no matter its value. The home must be the principal place of residence. The nursing home resident may be required to show some “intent to return home,” even if this never actually takes place.
Household and personal belongings, such as furniture, appliances, jewelry and clothing.
One vehicle - there may be some limitation on value.
Prepaid funeral plans and burial plots.
Cash value of life insurance policies, as long as the face value of all policies added together does not exceed $1,500. If it does exceed $1,500 in total face amount, then the cash value in these policies is countable. Also, term life insurance is exempt.
Cash (e.g. a small checking or savings account) not to exceed $1,600 in Connecticut.
These are basically the assets which Medicaid will ignore, at least for now. Keep in mind, however, that the estate recovery unit may come back to recoup payments made to a Medicaid recipient after the death of the recipient and the recipient’s spouse.
All other assets which are not exempt (i.e. the ones not listed earlier) are countable. This includes checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, IRAs, pensions, second cars and so on. While there are some minor exceptions to these rules, for the most part, all money and property, as well as any item that can be valued and turned into cash, is a countable asset unless it is one of those listed earlier as exempt.
While the Medicaid rules themselves are complicated and somewhat tricky, for a single person it’s safe to say that you will qualify for Medicaid so long as you have only exempt assets plus a small amount of cash, (i.e. $1,600 in Connecticut).
For a married couple in 2020, the community spouse (i.e. the one not needing nursing home care) can generally keep one-half of the assets up to a maximum of $126,810. There are legal strategies which can be implemented to protect assets beyond these levels, (in many cases, ALL of the assets) so it is wise to talk with an elder law attorney who will be able to advise you on how best to protect your assets.
Attorney Daniel O. Tully is a partner in the law firm of Kilbourne & Tully, P.C., members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Inc., with offices at 120 Laurel St., Bristol (860) 583-1341. www.ktelderlaw.com