If a person runs out of money while in a nursing home, the facility can discharge them for nonpayment. However, the individual may avoid this outcome by applying for financial support. Low-income seniors who’ve been assessed as requiring a nursing home level of care are likely to qualify for Medicaid, which can be used to cover the cost of nursing home care.

Seniors who are worried about their financial situation or are unsure how they’ll cover the cost of their care in the long term can seek advice from their local Area Agency on Aging. Individual states have differing levels of support and eligibility criteria, and the advisors at AAAs are trained to provide guidance on the programs available in their state.

Nursing Homes Must Give Notice Before a Discharge

While the rules governing nursing homes vary between states, in general, these facilities are required to give 30 days’ notice before discharging someone for nonpayment. In addition, they must provide a discharge plan that describes the resident’s current health status, any treatments or medications they require and information about where the resident will be moving to after they leave the facility. Seniors who don’t have anywhere to go after being discharged may be able to appeal the discharge to get some time to make plans. However, appeals aren’t guaranteed to be successful.

Those Wishing to Apply for Medicaid Should Plan Ahead

Applying for Medicaid typically takes far longer than 30 days. Seniors who are currently paying for their nursing home care out of pocket but have less than 1 year of funds left should start planning their Medicaid application as soon as possible. It can take 3 months for an application to be processed, and not all states offer retroactive payments. Some states have spend-down programs that allow seniors to access Medicaid support, even if they have an income that’s above the current limits, by letting them count certain medical expenses against their income. This may allow them to access support from Medicaid before their savings are depleted.