When a single person is entering a nursing home, and if she needs MassHealth to assist her with paying for that, then she needs to bring her assets down to $2,000. Elder law attorneys often recommend setting aside a “cushion” in a pooled trust – since $2,000 amounts to bubkes, really. Having a cushion set aside in the pooled trust provides the elder with the opportunity to buy things that MassHealth doesn’t provide, like hearing aides, a better bed, companion care, extra therapies, etc.
In the last few years, states across the county have been trying to shut down this opportunty for seniors, saying that anyone over 65 can’t transfer assets to the pooled trust and then expect MassHealth to help with the nursing home bill. Well, we can now breathe a little easier – the federal court that covers Pennsylvania has ruled that in fact, anyone 65 and over can establish a pooled trust account, and the states cannot say otherwise. This Circuit Court’s opinion is not binding on Massachusetts, but there is a strong tradition of federal courts in the same area of the country taking cues from each other.
To date, MassHealth has still permitted elders to transfer funds to pooled trusts so that they can have cushions while in the nursing home. From time to time MassHealth talks about prohibiting that practice. Now it looks even less likely that they can stop elders from using pooled trusts. That is good news for single seniors who need nursing home care and want to hold on to a little something so that they can pay for things not provided by MassHealth.