GAO: 14% of nursing home residents on Medicaid have more than $100,000 in assets

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Most nursing home residents on Medicaid have financial resources that were not counted toward their eligibility for the government insurance program, but few have substantial assets tucked away, according to a new government report.

Nearly 75% of nursing home residents reviewed for the report had some resources that were not counted toward their Medicaid eligibility, according to an analysis released Monday by the Government Accountability Agency. These “not countable” assets vary by state, but generally include prepaid burial expenses or resources transferred to a spouse.

Even when all their assets were considered, most of the residents considered by the GAO were far from wealthy, the analysis determined. More than 40% had total assets — both countable and not countable — of $2,500 or less. The median total assets amount was about $7,600.

But 14% of the residents under consideration were found to have total assets of $100,000 or more, according to the report.

The Government Accountability Office analyzed about 300 approved Medicaid applications for nursing home residents in Florida, South Carolina and New York. The findings cannot be generalized, the GAO stated, but the agency did analyze data from states considered “high” and “low” in terms of how rigorously they review Medicaid applicants' financial information.

The analysis was conducted at the request of Congressional lawmakers who wanted more data on how people become eligible for Medicaid coverage of long-term care. The federal government has sought to prevent people from protecting their assets while using Medicaid for nursing home payments.

The report identified the four most common ways that people reduce their countable assets: spending on goods and services such as funeral arrangements; converting countable assets to annuities or similar income sources that are not counted; gifting assets to another person; or increasing the types of assets that a spouse can retain.

If a potential Medicaid recipient transfers assets for less than fair-market value in order to prevent them from being counted, the applicant can be penalized. This occurred in 5% of the cases analyzed for the GAO report.

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