Qualifying for Medi-Cal benefits and long-term care may seem intimidating, but the process is easier than it might appear. Applicants only need to pass a two-prong test, involving assets and income.
To qualify for Medi-Cal nursing home benefits, a single application must have less than $2,000 in countable assets. However, the applicant’s spouse (if the spouse is not in a facility) may keep up to $126,420.00 in countable assets. Medi-Cal does consider certain assets to be “exempt” from the above requirements.
“Non-exempt” or countable assets are viewed as anything that is readily available to help fund a person’s medical needs and care. This includes things like:
- Checking and Savings Accounts
- Certificates of Deposits
- Stocks and Bonds
- Mutual Funds
- Real Property (other than your primary residence)
- Promissory Notes
A home is generally viewed as an exempt asset and therefore not counted in determining long-term care Medi-Cal eligibility. A Medi-Cal applicant must show that the home in question is their principal residence and also state an intent to return to the home when healthy. However, you must be aware of the Medi-Cal recovery process. The State of California reserves the right to recover any benefits paid from a decedent’s estate, which most likely will be the exempt primary home. The home can be protected to completely avoid the Estate recovery.
IRA’s and Pensions
IRAs and Pension funds do not have to be liquidated in order to qualify for Medi-Cal. Under California law, the cash surrender value, or balance of pension funds and IRAs, regardless of value, are considered unavailable if the application or beneficiary is receiving periodic payments of both interest and principal. There is no minimum amount of periodic payment required for Medi-Cal purposes. An income received, however, will be counted toward the share of cost.
If an applicant has unrestricted access to a checking or savings account, the entire amount of the account will be included in the property reserve. If you keep your mother’s name on your savings account to avoid probate, this could be a problem if your mother applies for Medi-Cal, unless you can clearly establish that all or a portion of the funds are yours.
Qualities to Look for in An Advisor for Medi-Cal Planning
Medi-Cal and long-term care planning are complex areas of practice and requires the most knowledgeable attorneys in the field. You should be looking for an advisor who specializes in estate planning and elder law. Not all estate planning attorneys know how to deal with the complex area of Medi-Cal Planning. You need to make sure the attorney you are dealing with knows this area of the law.