Can I "gift" my mother a new car with out it affecting her Medicaid?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 05, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My Mom is a disabled senior. I am afraid for her to continue driving her 16 year old car any longer. She has to have a way to get to her doctors, rehab, pharmacy and endless medical trips. She also has a "perfect" driving record. Mom has medicare and medicaid in CA. We would like to give her a "gift" of a new small suv. She could easily get her dog and walker, scooter or whatever in it. BUT, we do not know if that would affect her "medicaid or medi-cal" as it is referred to in CA.

Expert Answers

Your mother can own one car of any value as long as she uses it for her transportation. That's because the rules about automobiles are more lenient under Medi-Cal (as the the Medicaid program in California is called) than under Medicaid programs in some other states. In California, the entire value of the car is "exempt," meaning that Medi-Cal does not consider the car's value at all when it looks at your mother's assets to determine her eligibility. (In other states, there's a dollar limit on the exemption for a car under Medicaid eligibility rules.) Because an automobile of any value is exempt, it doesn't matter where your mother gets it from. So, giving her the car as a gift would not affect her Medi-Cal eligibility. Be aware, though, that the insurance -- at least, collision insurance -- on the new car will probably be quite a bit higher than on her old car, and if you regularly help her with those payments, Medi-Cal might consider the amounts you pay as income to her.