Can Medicaid charge me for Mom's nursing home?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 02, 2016
Queenie66 asked...

My mother-in-law moved in with my husband and I six years ago due to (her) financial necessity. She has few assets and works a small part time job. We do not charge her rent or ask her to pay any bills. She does buy her own food, daily necessities, insurance and prescriptions. We do not claim her on our taxes. We believe that when she is incapable or very ill, she will qualify for Medicaid because she has almost no money. Someone recently told me that when she does need to go to a nursing home, Medicaid will say that my husband and I should pay because we've been supporting her all this time, so why can we not continue? Is this true? If it is true, what should we do, charge her rent? Or ask her to move into a senior center? We live in Indiana.

Expert Answers

No, it's not true that you'll be responsible for your mother-in-law's nursing home costs. When someone goes into a nursing home and applies for Medicaid coverage, Medicaid considers only that person's own income and assets (and that of a spouse, if living with the Medicaid applicant). Medicaid does not consider the income or assets of the person's children, even if they have been financially supporting the parent. As long as your mother-in-law's name is not on the title to your house, bank accounts or any of your other assets, Medicaid will not consider those assets when deciding her eligibility for nursing home coverage, and you will not be responsible for any part her nursing home bills if Medicaid finds her eligible for nursing home coverage.

Although it wouldn't have anything to do with nursing home Medicaid coverage, your arrangement with your mother-in-law to live rent-free in your house might affect her eligibility for Medicaid coverage of her medical expenses while she's still living with you. Medicaid provides not only long-term nursing home coverage but also medical insurance. When deciding eligibility for coverage of medical costs, Medicaid looks at a person's income and assets. But in some states, Medicaid also considers the applicant's regular expenses, lowering the income level if the applicant has high regular medical expenses but raising the income level if the applicant doesn't pay rent. So, if your mother-in-law ever considers applying for Medicaid medical coverage while she's still living with you, she'll need to check on whether the eligibility rules of the Indiana Medicaid program will make eligibility tougher if she's not paying rent. To find out about the eligibility rules in the county where you live, go to the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration Medicaid county offices web page[] and click on the link for your county's Medicaid office.