Medicaid Planning Benefits the Wealthy, Article Charges

An article in the Feb. 25 Wall Street Journal discusses the practice of Medicaid planning, in which individuals purposely transfer assets so that they can qualify for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care. The Journal alleges that "Families, in some cases with net worths of millions of dollars, are going through contortions to spend or give away all their money." An "entire industry" made up of attorneys and others is helping "well-heeled" retirees qualify for Medicaid, the Journal charges.

Although transferring assets to qualify for Medicaid is legal, states are seeking federal permission to further limit asset transfers, says the Journal. Many eyes are on the federal government''s response to a request by Connecticut that it be permitted to change the rules regarding the "penalty period" that is imposed when assets are transferred. Currently, states can require a Medicaid applicant to wait for Medicaid coverage for a period of time that is equal to the amount of transferred assets divided by the average monthly cost of nursing home care in the state. This penalty period begins on the first day of the month in which the transfer takes place, meaning that an individual in a state where the average nursing home cost is $5,000 a month could transfer $50,000, wait ten months, and then theoretically be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

Connecticut is seeking to change the law so that the penalty period would begin when the individual would have been eligible for Medicaid services if the transfer had not occurred. The Journal reports that Kansas and other states are expected to ask for similar permission depending on the outcome of Connecticut''s request. However, nursing home operators, some advocacy groups and attorneys for the elderly are lobbying to stop Connecticut, claiming that the change will hurt people who transfer assets to help a family member in fiscal crisis.

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For more on the ethics of Medicaid planning, click here.

For more on the Medicaid transfer penalty rules, click here.