Look-Back Period Prevents Some Mississippians From Getting Medicaid Benefits

“Don’t Look Back” is the title track and first single from the band Boston’s second studio album. It’s a rock anthem celebrating new beginnings and the freedom that comes from moving forward. It’s a great song to pump you up if you are nervous about making changes in your life. 

It’s also a song that many people wish Congress would have listened to before drafting the current Medicaid law. Rather than heeding Boston’s advice, policymakers require the bureaucrats who administer the Medicaid program to look back at an applicant’s past financial decisions before awarding them benefits. 

This policy has caused trouble for many Medicaid applicants in the Brandon, Mississippi area, which is one of the reasons why the Palmer & Slay team is passionate about helping families in our area with Medicaid planning

Don’t look back, ooh, a new day is breakin’

Medicaid is an income-based program that provides financial assistance to many Mississippians living in assisted living facilities. In order to qualify for the program, you must have very few assets you can use to pay for your own care. 

Spending money, transferring assets, and doing whatever you can to get down to the asset limit may sound simple. The reality is there are rules in place to prevent people the government thinks should be able to pay for their own care from gaming the Medicaid system by going on a spending spree or handing assets over to your children. 

Before you can get Medicaid benefits, the state of Mississippi looks back at the financial decisions you made over the previous 60 months (five years). If the state determines you “wasted” assets by selling or giving them away under fair market value, you can be denied Medicaid benefits for a period of time as a penalty. 

As an example, if a Mississippi resident applied for Medicaid on Jan. 1, 2022, their look-back period would extend back 60 months to Dec. 31, 2016. All financial transactions during that period will be subject to review.

It’s been so long since I felt this way

The best way to secure the Medicaid benefits you need, without being destitute, or losing the legacy you had hoped to leave to your family, is to work with estate planners like those at Palmer & Slay. Our experienced team can help you get your finances in order so you can access the Medicaid benefits you need. 

I don’t mind, ooh, where I get taken

In an ideal situation, the Palmer & Slay team can work with you to get your affairs in order well before the five-year look-back period becomes something you need to be concerned about. This is why we encourage Brandon area residents to meet with us sooner rather than later. 

One tactic that can be used is putting assets into a Qualified Income Trust (QIT or “Income Trust”). The assets in these special trusts do not count toward Medicaid’s asset limits because the person who transferred the assets is no longer the legal owner of them, the trust is. The funds in the trust can be used to benefit the original transferer, but the remainder beneficiary must be the Mississippi Division of Medicaid. 

If a trust is not desirable, the Palmer & Slay team can assist a family with an asset spend down. As noted above, giving away assets or selling them for less than market value is not a good idea, but assets can be spent in ways that Medicaid says is okay. Some examples of this include home repairs, improvements, and modifications that will aid in a person’s care as they age, prepayment of funeral and burial expenses, and paying off debts. Our experienced team can advise families as they create and execute a spend-down plan in order to get their loved one the Medicaid benefits they need. 

The road is callin’, today is the day.

If you have questions about securing Medicaid benefits for yourself or a loved one, Palmer & Slay’s experienced team of Medicaid planning attorneys is here for you. Please contact us today to schedule a meeting.