How a Declining Stock Market Can Cause a Long Term Care Nightmare

Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., a Medicaid Attorney

As the current economic crisis deepens, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are heading into uncharted waters, in so many respects.  Specifically, however, I am talking about the long term care arena.
Dad owns a home in which he lives.  Home health aides come into the home to assist Dad but as his health deteriorates, he needs increased care.  His son, John believes that Dad will very soon need to move to a nursing facility.  Now, here is where it gets interesting.

Dad took a reverse mortgage for $300,000 and he took it in a lump sum.  John’s plan was to invest the money in the market, get a decent rate of return that would help meet Dad’s expenses.  Well, we know what has happened in the past year.  The stock market has headed south.  Dad’s investment headed south too.  He lost roughly half of his investment.  That’s bad enough.  But here is the problem.  John transferred the money to an account in his name.  Not because he intended to keep it, but because it was just easier to manage the funds that way.

When he did that, however, he caused a Medicaid transfer penalty.  In New Jersey that penalty is approximately 3 and ½ years.  So what happens when Dad sells his home and uses the sale proceeds (less the amount he pays back to the bank) for his nursing home care?  He will be ineligible for Medicaid unless John transfers back the money.  Except that he doesn’t have all of it.

I know.  You’re thinking, “Will Medicaid really deny Dad’s application if John can show that the loss in value occurred in the market, and that he didn’t take the money?”  I don’t know.  Maybe, maybe not.  You see, we are living in unusual times.  Many states are struggling with budget deficits.  Medicaid is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, program for most states.  If they don’t have the money to fund these programs I can certainly see New Jersey applying the Medicaid rules as written and impose a penalty.  If Dad is ineligible for 3 and ½ years he may never live to receive Medicaid, something the government no doubt may consider when trying to balance its budget.

And just another reason why you can’t afford to be unprepared when it comes to long term care.

For further information and advice in any Medicaid matter, do not hesitate to contact me at 888-800-7442, or email fniemann@scarincihollenbeck.com.

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