Qualifying for Medicaid to pay for long-term care at home or in a nursing home means meeting strict income and asset limits. In most states, you can have just $2,000 to your name when you apply. This low asset limit coupled with rampant misinformation about what you have to do to meet it drives people to take actions that are…interesting.
What are some of the craziest things people have done in misguided attempts to meet Medicaid’s asset limits? We posed this question to Matthew Bravette, one of the attorneys at Bratton Law Group, a Life Care Planning Law Firm with offices in the Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia areas.
Matthew says that if you can imagine it, someone has done it. Taking large amounts of cash out of the bank and gifting it to family members or hiding it in the house, paying family members well above fair market value for caregiving services, transferring real property to a family member for $1.00, and just about anything else you can think of.
“Hiding assets doesn’t work and it can lead to a worse outcome for the applicant. Generally, if there’s a situation, we can work around it or mitigate the damage as long as our client is up front about it.”
Why does the state always find out? The agency charged with processing Medicaid applications, (the Board of Social Services in many states) has an asset verification system that allows them to search for accounts and assets by Social Security number. Though the success of this search depends to a large degree on what your financial institution reports, the board can tell if there are accounts that are not being disclosed. When they see deposits and withdrawals that can't be verified, they follow the breadcrumb trail. If those transactions can’t be verified, the claim is denied.
Matthew says that he often discovers what’s really going on deep into the Medicaid application process. “I will hear that something has been happening, and I’ll go to the family and ask them why they didn’t tell me about this initially,” he said. “They’re concerned that if they say anything, it’ll cause a bigger problem with the application and if they don’t say anything, the Board of Social Services won’t find out. In reality, the State always finds out and if we know about a potential issue, we can address it early on in the process.”
The most important thing you can do is to tell your attorney everything at the beginning of the Medicaid application process. “We can fix most things,” Matthew said.
Whether you want to start a new Medicaid application or fix a current application that has been delayed or denied, attorneys at Life Care Planning Law Firms can help.