How to Help an Aging Parent Qualify for Medicaid

“Medicaid” is an entitlement program (meaning the US government gives it away to people). It is, however, not a “social insurance” program in the way that Social Security and Medicare are. Social Security are automatically available to you once you reach a certain age, and there are no additional requirements. You also have to pay in to those programs through automatic deductions from your paycheck.

Medicaid on the other hand is a program funded through both the federal and state governments that allows for health insurance, medical care, and cash payments in some cases. However, in order to qualify for Medicaid, a person must meet specific financial and/or medical standards. The programs cost the state government a lot of money, and so the state’s guidelines are strict. Each county’s Board of Social Services (or County Welfare Agency) administers these guidelines very carefully, although sometimes there is variation in some of the marginal issues depending on which county you go to.

When this blog discusses “Medicaid” in an elder law context, though, what is mainly being referred to is something called the “Medicaid Only” or “Medically Needy” programs. They mean that an applicant is only looking for the government to pay for the cost of care, and not to provide cash or other benefits (food stamps or the like).  Each of those programs have different asset limits but they are certainly lower than the assets most seniors currently have saved for retirement.

In short: If you see the word “Medicaid” used without reference to assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, some of the information presented there might not be accurate for your particular case.

The answer to this question is complex, but given a little help from these posts, and hopefully some consultation with a good elder law attorney, we will be able to sketch out what is needed so your parent can qualify for Medicaid (also known as “Medicaid Only”) services for medical care in New Jersey. Eligibility for Medicaid for seniors has two facets financial and medical. The medical factors are usually handled by the facility itself, and require paperwork to be filled out by medical personnel (who again are typically employed by the facility). The financial factors are of course within the control of the applicant and his/her family, and we will be discussing them in great detail in future posts.

The baseline rule is that a Medicaid recipient can only have $2,000 in what are called “countable assets.” That number is preposterously low for the vast majority of New Jersey residents, and the key to making that number more palatable is to determine what is “countable.” Medicaid planning is, at its most basic level, the art of converting “countable” assets to “non countable assets,” exempting as much as possible from the grasp of the Medicaid program. Future posts will discuss what “countable assets” are, what exceptions there are to those rules, and how a skilled attorney can start to use those exemptions to a client’s advantage.

About the Author

Bernie Clark is the Marketing Manager for Maselli Warren, a law firm boasting an experienced team of family law and divorce attorneys in New Jersey. The attorneys at Maselli Warren regularly write and present on a variety of topics related to family and elder law.