The rules are the same in all states. And it's not a matter of what's "legal" -- it's legal for any parent to give his or her assets to a
son or daughter at any time. The question is whether giving away real estate or other assets will disqualify the parent from Medicaid coverage of nursing home costs.
Here are the rules. If a parent qualifies for Medicaid coverage of residence in a nursing home, Medicaid pays the entire cost. But to qualify for Medicaid nursing home coverage, a parent must have very low income and assets. In examining an applicant's assets, Medicaid looks at any gifts the parent has made in the previous years. If assets have been given away during a certain "look-back" period before applying for Medicaid, the parent may be ineligible for Medicaid nursing home coverage for some time. The length of ineligibility is calculated by taking the value of the transferred asset and dividing it by the average monthly nursing facility cost in the state.
The look-back periods are different in length, and in severity of penalty, depending on when the gift or transfer was made:
- For gifts or transfers made before February 8, 2006, the look-back period is 36 months from the date the parent applies for Medicaid nursing home coverage. If the gift or transfer falls within this time, the period of ineligibility begins to run from the date of the transfer.
- For gifts or transfers made on or after February 8, 2006, the rules are much tougher. The look-back period for gifts made after this date is 60 months from the date of the Medicaid application. And if a gift falls within this time, the period of ineligibility begins from the date of the application for Medicaid coverage (NOT from the date of the transfer, as under the earlier rule).
- For more explanation of these rules, and for some possible ways to protect some assets, take a look at the web page Elder Law Answers.