When someone begins looking into planning or applying for MassHealth (Medicaid in Massachusetts) benefits they often receive a lot of well intentioned advice from friends and loved ones. The fact is, however, that obtaining MassHealth benefits while protecting your assets is a complicated process, and even the most well intentioned advice can lead you down a dangerous path if you are not careful. MassHealth has strict guidelines and asset limits and can impose long disqualification periods for minor errors. The best approach is to consult an attorney familiar with the MassHealth regulations before it too late. Here are the top eight mistakes I see people making when dealing with MassHealth.
MassHealth Mistake #1 – Thinking It’s Too Late To Plan
It’s almost never too late to take planning steps that can end up saving you family a lot of stress and money. Even after a senior has moved to a nursing home or been denied MassHealth coverage, a good elder lawyer can be very successful at helping families who thought it was too late.
MassHealth Mistake #2 – Giving Away Assets Too Early
It’s your money (or your house, or both) and you should make sure you take care of yourself first. Don’t put your security at risk by transferring assets (even to the kids) before it’s necessary. Precipitous transfers can cause difficult tax and Medicaid problems down the road.
MassHealth Mistake #3 – Ignoring Important Safe Harbors Created by Congress
Certain transfers are allowable without jeopardizing MassHealth eligibility. These can include transfers to a spouse, disabled children, caretaker children, into a trust for anyone who is disabled and under 65 and a transfer to a pooled disability trust at any age.
MassHealth Mistake #4 – Failing to Take Advantage of Protections for the Spouse of a Nursing Home Resident
These protections include reclassifying assets, petitioning for an increased spousal allowance, and the possibility of petitioning for an increased personal income allowance.
MassHealth Mistake #5 – Applying For MassHealth Too Early
Rushing into applying for MassHealth can result in a longer period of ineligibility than waiting to file the application, depending on your circumstances.
MassHealth Mistake #6 – Applying for MassHealth Too LATE
While applying for MassHealth too early is a major mistake, so is waiting too long to apply, which can mean the loss of many months of eligibility.
MassHealth Mistake #7 – Not Getting Expert Help
MassHealth is an incredibly complicated field that most people endure just once in their lives. In many cases tens of thousands of dollars are at stake. It’s foolish not to consult with people who make their living guiding clients through this process.
MassHealth Mistake #8 – Believing That Gifting Creates a 60-month Period of Ineligibility
The 60-month period you’ve heard about is a “look-back” period, which is not the same thing as an ineligibility period. Ineligibility is calculated by a formula and can be minimized with good, sound planning.