Medicaid is the government-funded program that pays nursing home care only for individuals who are low income and who have spent most of their assets. Medicaid pays for nearly half of all nursing home care on an aggregate basis, but many people who need long-term care never qualify for Medicaid assistance.7 Medicaid also pays for some home- and community-based services. To get Medicaid help, you must meet federal and state guidelines for income and assets. Many people start paying for nursing home care out of their own funds and “spend down” their income until they are eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid may then pay part or all of their nursing home costs. You may have to use up most of your assets on your health care before Medicaid is able to help. Some assets and income can be protected for a spouse who remains at home. In addition, some of your assets may be protected if you have long term care insurance approved under one of the state long-term care insurance partnership programs.
State laws differ about how much money and assets you can keep and be eligible for Medicaid. (Some assets, such as your home, may not count when deciding if you are eligible for Medicaid.) However, federal law requires your state to recover from your estate the costs of the Medicaid-paid benefits you receive.
Contact your state Medicaid office, office on aging or department of social services to learn about the rules in your state. The insurance counseling program in your state also may have some Medicaid information.
Long Term Care Insurance
Long term care insurance is one other way you may pay for long-term care. This type of insurance will pay or reimburse you for some or all of your long-term care. It was introduced in the 1980s as nursing home insurance but has changed a lot and now covers much more than nursing home care. The rest of this Shopper’s Guide will give you information on long term care insurance.
You should know that a federal law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, gives some federal income tax advantages to people who buy certain long term care insurance policies. These policies are called Tax-Qualified long term care insurance Contracts, or simply Qualified Contracts. The tax advantages of these policies are outlined on page 15. There may be other tax advantages in your state. You should check with your state insurance department or insurance counseling program for information about tax-qualified policies. Check with your tax advisor to find out if the tax advantages make sense for you.
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