Throughout your working years, you likely enjoyed employer-sponsored or privately purchased health insurance. Once you reached retirement age, you may have assumed that Medicare would take over paying for your health care expenses. Consequently, you probably never gave the Medicaid eligibility requirements much thought – until the need to pay for long-term care arose. Like many seniors faced with paying for long-term care (LTC) you may now be concerned that the need to qualify for Medicaid puts your assets at risk. Specifically, you might be worried that the need to qualify for Medicaid could mean the loss of your house. The Minot Medicaid planning attorneys at German Law explain the Medicaid eligibility guidelines and how your house fits into those guidelines.
Why Might You Suddenly Need to Qualify for Medicaid?
Medicaid is a federal healthcare program targeted at providing healthcare services to low-income individuals and families. If you made a moderate to high wage over the course of your working career, you probably never qualified for Medicaid. As such, you never considered the eligibility requirements. As senior, however, you might suddenly find yourself in a position where qualifying for Medicaid is your only hope with assistance covering LTC expenses — and those expenses are high. Nationwide, residents paid, on average, over $80,000 for a year of LTC in 2017. At an average of $130,000 a year for the same year, North Dakota has some of the highest LTC costs in the nation. What makes the high cost of LTC so alarming though is that neither Medicare nor most health insurance policies will cover LTC expenses. Unless you can afford to easily pay for LTC out of pocket, that leaves Medicaid as your only hope for help.
Medicaid Eligibility in North Dakota
While Medicaid will cover LTC expenses for program participants, you must first become a participant. That means meeting the programs strict income and asset guidelines, among other eligibility guidelines. Specifically, you cannot have countable resources (assets) that exceed $3000 if you apply as an individual in North Dakota. If you are married your assets cannot exceed $6,000. If your assets exceed the limit, your application will be denied and you will have to “spend-down” those assets until they fall below the limit. At first glance, these guidelines may cause you to worry about losing your home as a result of the need to qualify for Medicaid. Fortunately, however, certain assets are exempt when considering eligibility for Medicaid in North Dakota, including, but not limited to:
- Your home; however, the maximum amount of home equity allowed is $572,000 for 2018
- One automobile
- Burial plans (with limits)
- Self-employment property (including tools, equipment and livestock)
- Non-saleable property, personal effects and clothing, household goods, and furniture
- Indian trust and restricted lands and per capita and judgment funds.
Also, note that different asset rules apply if one spouse is in a nursing home and the other spouse remains at home. The spouse receiving the nursing care services is allowed $3000 in countable resources. The spouse who remains in the community is entitled to keep half of the couple’s countable assets, but not less than $24,720 and not more than $123,600 for the calendar year 2018.
If you have more than the allowable amount of equity in your home, that does not mean you will lose your home. The key to protecting excess equity in your home and/or non-exempt assets that exceed the limit is to start planning for Medicaid eligibility as early as possible by including a Medicaid planning component in your estate plan. There are a number of legal tools and strategies, such as creating a Medicaid trust, that can be utilized to protect your assets while setting you up for Medicaid eligibility down the road.
Contact Minot Medicaid Planning Attorneys
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about North Dakota Medicaid eligibility guidelines, contact the Minot Medicaid planning attorneys at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.