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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Medicaid

Are you worried about your ability to afford nursing home care if you need it? Do you think you make too much money or have too much in savings to receive government aid? Have you been told you need to sell or give away all of your assets before you can apply for Medicaid?

At The Hughes Law Firm, P.C., in Denver, we have a team of skilled Medicaid attorneys and staff members who will put your concerns about the future to rest. We have years of experience helping people just like you with all issues of elder law, probate and estate planning.

What Is The Difference Between Medicare And Medicaid?

Medicare is a federal program that helps individuals 65 and older pay for their medical expenses. There are no financial requirements for Medicare eligibility. However, Medicare does not cover as many medical costs as Medicaid. In fact, with limited exceptions, Medicare does not pay for nursing homes. Only Medicaid does.

Medicaid benefits are administered at the federal and state level, and rules may differ from state to state. Following are Colorado-specific answers to questions that we are frequently asked.

Isn't Medicaid for poor people? While Medicaid is a need-based medical assistance program, most people with assets valued under $1 million can qualify with proper planning. If you were employed, you paid into the Medicaid program during your working life. The system is set up to provide financial assistance for such a time as this. There is nothing immoral about applying for Medicaid if you have significant assets.

Can Medicaid help me pay for nursing home care? Once you have met the medical, income and resource requirements, Medicaid can pay your nursing home expenses. Meeting these requirements often takes careful planning so that you do not have to spend your life savings or leave your spouse impoverished.

How can I get Medicaid benefits? Anyone who is applying for Medicaid must pass three tests: the medical test, the income test and the resources test.

  • First, you must be 65 or older, blind or disabled and you must require nursing home-level care.
  • Second, your monthly income must not exceed $2,205. If it does, Colorado law allows you to put the excess (with limitations) into an income trust, so that it is not counted against you. Also, certain types of income are not factored into this calculation.
  • Third, your "countable" financial resources must not exceed $2,000. While this may appear to be a low figure, there are a number of significant assets that are not added into this total, including your primary residence, personal property and many other assets.

Can I get Medicaid benefits if I own a home? The short answer is yes. Your principal residence does not count as one of your resources so long as your equity does not exceed $560,000.

Can I use an annuity to reduce my resources? A Medicaid-friendly annuity can help you become eligible for Medicaid while maintaining an income that is sufficient to pay other expenses, including those of your spouse.

Can I give gifts to people to help reduce my countable resources? Gifting financial resources and assets to your children, friends and charities can help reduce the amount of your estate. However, any gifts given within five years of your application for Medicaid benefits are pulled back into your estate and counted as part of your financial resources. This is known as the five-year "look-back" rule.

Will Medicaid pay my adult child to be my caretaker? While Medicaid can cover unskilled care expenses in your home, payments to children must be established (using fair market value figures) by contract before any payment is made. Without a prior agreement, the payments are treated as gifts and are subject to the five-year look-back period.

How can a Medicaid lawyer help me? The rules and regulations regarding Medicaid eligibility are complex and can be confusing for many people. Unfortunately, any mistake made by applicants can subject them to severe penalties. Even worse, many people have inadvertently spent their life savings only to find out that they didn't need to.

There are right ways and wrong ways to try and obtain the financial assistance you need to pay for your own or your parents' nursing home care. Let the lawyers at The Hughes Law Firm, P.C., help you and give you peace of mind about the future.

Learn More During A Free Initial Consultation

For more information about these topics and more, view our Colorado Guide To Medicaid and call us at 720-222-4905 for a free 20-minute consultation. You may also send us an email with your questions or to schedule a meeting with one of our experienced Medicaid attorneys.