Hi there, my name is Bridget Mackay. I’m an attorney in Petaluma, California and I practice in the area of estate planning and elder law. This is my video blog. Today I’m going to talk about some common questions I get about Medi-Cal.
The first question I want to talk about is one I hear often which is how does Medi-Cal treat my home? When you apply for Medi-Cal, your home is exempt as long as you state that you’re going to return to it, so its value is not considered when they determine your assets. And if you’ve seen any of my earlier blogs, your asset levels, in order to qualify for Medi-Cal, if you’re a single person, you can only have $2,000 in assets. And if you’re a married couple and one person is receiving Medi-Cal, you can only have $120,000 in assets.
In other words, when you’re applying for Medi-Cal or if you’re on Medi-Cal, they don’t consider the value of your home in those numbers. You are obligated to tell Medi-Cal that you have a home in the application, but you don’t have to provide the value for it. Now, what is this business of stating you intend to return back to this home to make it what we call exempt? Well, on the application, there is a question that you will be asked about your home and it’ll say, “Are you intending to return home,” or “return back to that home now that you’re on Medi-Cal and in a skilled nursing facility?” And you need to answer yes to that question. That’s what we mean when we say if you’re… It’s exempt so long as you’re intending to return home to it. “Wait a minute,” you ask, “I’m in a nursing home and the level of care I require will never allow me to return to my home,” in practically speaking. But that’s okay on the application and under the regulations of Medi-Cal, because per those regulations, you only need to have an intent to return home, not the capability to return home.
As I mentioned, your home is exempt when you apply and while you’re on Medi-Cal. However, your house is no longer exempt after your death or if you’re a married couple, after the death of both of you. In this instance, since your home was listed on the application and you were required to do that, Medi-Cal now knows that that’s an asset in your estate and they can come back and recover any costs they paid for you from that asset or from that home. Let me say it again, the whole time you’re receiving Medi-Cal, Medi-Cal is keeping tabs of the cost they incur for your care and this is the value they will ask for after the deaths from your estate. Oftentimes, the only asset left in people’s estate after being on Medi-Cal and needing care is the home. When they make this demand, oftentimes, families find themselves having to… They’re forced essentially to sell their home and pay off the demand or the recovery that Medi-Cal makes after the death.
There are ways to protect against this, but you should absolutely contact a qualified attorney to help you navigate this, as the regulations are tricky and hard to understand on your own. You should do it before the person on Medi-Cal dies so that you can do some things to protect the home.