2-Minute Money Manager: Can I Protect My Money If I Go Into a Nursing Home?

Medicaid -- not Medicare -- covers long-term nursing home expenses. But you must have a low income and few assets to qualify. Is there a way to work the system?

2-Minute Money Manager: Can I Protect My Money If I Go Into a Nursing Home? Photo by Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com

Welcome to your “2-Minute Money Manager,” a short video feature answering money questions submitted by readers and viewers.

Today’s question is about paying for nursing home care; specifically, how to get Medicaid to pick up the tab without having to surrender all your savings.

Watch the following video and you’ll pick up some valuable info. Or, if you prefer, scroll down to read the full transcript and find out what I said.

You also can learn how to send in a question of your own below.

For more information, check out “9 Ways to Prepare Loved Ones for Their Golden Years” and “7 Things You Need to Know About Medicare.” You can also go to the search at the top of this page, put in the word “retirement” and find plenty of information on just about everything relating to this topic.

And if you need anything from a better credit card to help with debt, be sure and visit our Solutions Center. You’ll also find help with Social Security there.

Got a question of your own to ask? Scroll down past the transcript.

Don’t want to watch? Here’s what I said in the video

Hello, and welcome to your “2-Minute Money Manager.” I’m your host, Stacy Johnson, and this two-minute answer is brought to you by MoneyTalksNews.com, serving up the best in personal finance news and advice since 1991.

Today’s question comes from Diane:

“Will you please tell me if there’s a way to prevent the nursing home from taking all of your money when you go into it?”

Well, Diane, I’ve got three things for you:

Thing No. 1: Medicare doesn’t care

If you need long-term care in a nursing home, it’s going to cost a ton of money: Estimates range from $50,000 to $80,000 per year. You may think, “Medicare will take care of me.” No, Medicare won’t. You can go into a nursing home for a very limited amount of time and Medicare will pay the bill. But once it becomes long-term, Medicare won’t pay.

However, Medicaid will pay for nursing home care. Medicaid is the health care solution for low-income Americans. In order for Medicaid to pick up your nursing home tab, you’re going to have to spend down almost all of your assets. And this, I assume, is what Diane is addressing. She’s asking if there’s a way to qualify for Medicaid without having to give up all your savings.

Thing No. 2: Medicaid strategies

There are strategies you can employ that will allow you to legally qualify for Medicaid and preserve some of your money. However, they’re complicated.

Keep in mind, Medicaid isn’t for the rich, or even the middle class. It’s a taxpayer-supported system for the impoverished. That being said, there are some things you can legally do to protect some of your assets.

Examples include certain annuities and giving away your assets to family members at least five years before going into a nursing home. There are also irrevocable trusts you can set up, like life estates and spillover trusts. Sound complicated? It is, which is why you’ll need a lawyer to properly explore your options.

In short, the essence of sheltering your assets from a nursing home and getting Medicaid to pay the bill is to remove assets from your estate, either by giving them away or by putting them in an irrevocable trust. You need to do that long in advance of entering a nursing home. You’ll need a lawyer, and it’s not simple. Therefore, you’ll probably need a lot of assets before it’s even worthwhile.

Thing No. 3: Alternatives

There are alternatives to going down this road, none of which is particularly pleasant or simple. You can get long-term care insurance, which is terrifically expensive. You could self-insure, which means having enough savings to pay for the nursing home. You can opt for home care, if that’s feasible for you, since it’s generally less expensive than a nursing home.

Bottom line? This is a tough situation without obvious solutions. But if you want to explore them, do some reading, then talk to a lawyer. You can start your reading at MoneyTalksNews.com. Just do a search for “long-term care.”

Hope that answered your question, Diane.

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The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. In other words, don’t ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you. And if I don’t get to your question, promise not to hate me. I do my best, but I get a lot more questions than I have time to answer.

About me

I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate.

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Stacy Johnson
Stacy Johnson @moneytalksnews
I'm the founder of Money Talks News and have spent the last 40+ years in the personal finance trenches. I'm a CPA, author of a few books and multiple Emmy recipient. I'm ... More

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