Alternatives to the Medicaid Spend Down, Planning for Medicaid


Nursing Homes Costs

Nursing homes are so expensive that very few people can afford to pay for them entirely out-of-pocket for a prolonged period of time. These individuals are often encouraged to apply for Medicaid to help cover that ever-growing expense. Nursing homes often have employees that are dedicated to the Medicaid application process. When it comes to physically caring for your loved one, the nursing home is on your team. When it comes to paying for that care, you and the nursing home aren’t even playing the same game.

Income and Assets

Nursing homes will often tell you that your loved ones can only have $2,000 to their name in order to qualify for Medicaid and that all, or almost all, of your loved one’s monthly income will go towards paying for their care. Both of those statements are absolutely true. The issue arises when nursing homes routinely tell people that they need to sell their loved one’s house and then spend every penny of the proceeds (along with all other assets) so that there is no more than $2,000 left. Unfortunately, this advice is not always true. There are ways to preserve your loved one’s assets so that they are available to your loved one for quality of life improving services (such as hearing aids) or left as an inheritance for children or grandchildren.

Medicaid Planning

In order to understand which planning tools are available in your particular situation, you need to consult with an attorney who primary practice area is Medicaid planning. Ideally, you would start planning five years before you or your loved one need nursing home level care. If you are five years ahead of the game, there are many options available to you such as preserving assets by putting them into trusts that make them unavailable to Medicaid, or deeding your home to your beneficiaries while making sure you have the right to live in your home as long as you are alive and able. Even if you don’t plan five years in advance, there are last-minute Medicaid planning tools or exceptions to the rules that may save you from an unnecessary spend down of assets.

About the Author, Medicaid Planning Attorney Leslie A. Starritt

Leslie A. Starritt is the lead Medicaid Planning Attorney at Jelks Law, PLLC. Leslie has more than seven years of experience in estate planning, elder law, special needs trusts, and Medicaid Planning. As part of her practice, Leslie has cultivated the patience and skills necessary to help people transition from independent living to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This includes a unique ability to preserve assets and apply for long-term disability coverage through Medicaid in a streamlined and efficient manner. Jelks Law is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga and serves clients in Tennessee and Georgia.  

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Jelks Law serves the greater Chattanooga area and surrounding communities including: Soddy Daisy, TN; Red Bank, TN; East Ridge, TN; Ooltewah, TN; Signal Mountain, TN; Cleveland, TN; Lookout Mountain, GA; Ringgold, GA.