‘Tis the season to give and receive, but did you know that this can have significant consequences if you need to apply for Medicaid in the next three to five years? Can gifts impact Medicaid eligibility? Yes, this can have impacts for both the giver and receiver.

 Regarding the gift giver, it should be noted that the IRS allows a tax-free annual gift of fifteen thousand dollars per person with an unlimited amount of donees. In other words, a wealthy donor could gift away over a million tax free dollars per year by gifting a hundred different people the maximum fifteen thousand dollars.

 It can be vital, however, to understand these are tax laws and Medicaid takes a different stance on gifting in terms of Medicaid eligibility. When a person’s assets are reviewed for Medicaid eligibility, this includes a “Look-Back” period of thirty to sixty months, depending upon the state. If it is discovered that the Medicaid applicant has gifted money in order to be eligible for Medicaid, the penalty is Medicaid ineligibility. The length of time of ineligibility is determined by the amount of the gift and the average cost of a private pay nursing home in the area.

 A person deemed ineligible for Medicaid due to gift giving has some options. It is possible for the gifter to collect the gift back, or reimbursement, in order to “un-do” the penalty. Even if possession of the money makes them ineligible for Medicaid, they can spend it down by temporarily paying for long-term care or making a home modification related to their disability until they reach eligibility status. There may also be a possibility of an undue hardship waiver, if Medicaid ineligibility will cause the person to go without medical care, food or shelter.

There may also be important impacts on the gift receiver. All states have an asset limit to be Medicaid eligible and it is not very high. In fact, many states have limits falling in the range of fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars. Even a small gift can push a Medicaid recipient over the eligibility limit. Any gift received must be spent within a month in order to avoid affecting Medicaid eligibility. A Medicaid recipient has options if they receive a gift. They can pay off debt, purchase a funeral trust or a Medicaid eligible annuity. If money is received before applying for Medicaid, the money can also be spent down in a similar fashion. 

If you will be giving or receiving money or other assets this holiday season and anticipate this may impact your Medicaid eligibility or someone else’s, contact our office to discuss your options.