The Medicaid Myth: “Will they take my house?” That is the single biggest question we hear from clients in regard to Medicaid. Medicaid is a state and federal combined program that allows qualifying individuals access to skilled nursing care, or long term care, in a nursing home facility. In order to qualify for this type of Medicaid coverage in Florida, an individual must first qualify medically, meaning they must need substantial assistance with their activities of daily living and a nursing home is the most appropriate placement for such care. Next, they must qualify as being either aged (over 65), blind or disabled.
Then, the individual must qualify financially. In 2015, a married couple may retain $119,220 in countable assets. A single individual may have only $2,000 in countable assets. These figures may change almost yearly. The key to qualifying is to know what assets are not part of this “countable asset” category.
Typically, the largest asset a person owns that is not counted as part of the financial qualification is an individual’s primary residence (homestead). If the primary residence has equity value of less than $552,000.00 and the spouse is living there or, if single, the applicant expresses an “intent to return home”, the home will not be counted as an asset. Additionally, due to Florida’s constitutional homestead laws, if the homestead will be passing to children or other blood relatives, it will not be attached by Medicaid following the applicant’s death. So, the answer to the medicaid myth of “Will they take my house?” is most circumstances is No.
Other assets that are considered non-countable include: property other than the homestead if rented at fair market value; one vehicle, regardless of age or value; life insurance policies with no cash value; life insurance with cash value if the total face value of all policies is less than $2,500.00; irrevocable burial contracts; an account with $2,500.00 designated for burial expenses; one burial plot per family member; and retirement funds of the applicant, if required minimum distributions (or their equivalent) are being paid out.
There are also income limits of $2,199 per month; however, if an applicant’s income exceeds that amount, an Income Assignment Trust, also known as a Miller Trust, can be prepared to hold excess income.
Qualifying for Medicaid can be a cumbersome and scary task, even when an individual appears to meet all of the qualifications. It is important to consult with an Attorney experienced in the Medicaid policies who can assist in the application process. We are happy to provide such counsel to our clients facing these long term care challenges.