Couples: Protect Your Assets from the Cost of Nursing Home Care

As you well know, privately paying a nursing home bill is a very costly undertaking.  Should you need nursing home care, typically Medicare and your supplemental insurance cover up to 100 days.  After that, you either privately pay or look to Medicaid (MassHealth) to pay.

For a married person to receive MassHealth assistance with paying for nursing home care, generally speaking, the couple can have no more than $119,240 in liquid assets (technically, the nursing home spouse can keep $2000, and the at-home spouse can hold the remainder) and minimal life insurance.  The couple (or just one spouse) can own a home.  If the nursing spouse owns an interest in the home, MassHealth will place a lien on the home, to potentially be paid back out of the member’s estate (“estate recovery”).

MassHealth uses a five-year look-back period.  From the date of application, MassHealth looks back five years to see if you have made any gifts (typically anything over $100 must be explained).  MassHealth disqualifies applicants who have made gifts in the last five years.

For many couples, MassHealth is a double-edged sword.  Many at-home spouses are terrified of spending all their savings on their ill spouse’s care – MassHealth spares them that.  On the other hand, if a healthy spouse is young and seems to have a long life ahead of her, then reducing her assets to just $119,240 is a very scary proposition.  Contact our office for strategies to help the at-home spouse keep more of her assets, so that she is not living in fear of becoming impoverished.