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The Medicaid look back period can trap the unwary

Medicaid, or Medical Assistance, is a welfare program designed to help pay for medical care for those who are of limited means, seniors and non-seniors alike. There are some services that Medicaid may cover that Medicare will not, especially when it comes to affording a nursing home. Medicare is an insurance program funded primarily through payroll taxes.

Many Pennsylvanians may require medical help that only a nursing home can provide. Unfortunately, nursing homes may cost approximately $10,000 per month, which most people cannot afford. To become eligible for Medicaid, an applicant must apply and is only permitted to have a very limited amount of assets. This means even someone who has done a good job of saving throughout his or her life may see his or her legacy eaten up by paying for nursing home care instead of leaving that legacy to loved ones.

To avoid having to use these assets for care, an elderly person may want to transfer his or her property to loved ones before going into a nursing home. It is in these circumstances that Medicaid's look back period will come in.

As the name implies, Medicaid will look back 60 months prior to a person's application for Medicaid and penalize the person for gifts and other transfers made without consideration during that time. The idea behind these penalties is that, but for the gifts, those resources would have been available to pay for the long-term care. These gifts can even include the transfer of a home for $1 to one's children.

What this means is that Pittsburgh families are well advised to discuss Medicaid planning with an experienced elder law attorney to protect their assets and their family to avoid problems with the 60-month look back period and possible penalties for Medicaid eligibility.

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