Do I have to sell my home to be eligible for Medicaid coverage of my nursing home care?

Probably not. Your home is generally exempt from being considered a countable asset for purposes of long-term care Medicaid eligibility as long as you plan to return home if you ever get better. This exemption is called the homestead exemption. Your homestead is the property on which you normally live and which you own or are in the process of purchasing. It is not required that you are likely to go back home, or even that it is probable. To exempt your home you must only intend to return if you ever get better. There is really no reason why your residence should ever be counted as an asset. Most people would like to live at home if they were in the condition to do so. 

Sometimes Medicaid caseworkers will ask you about your residence in terms of probability. For instance, one may ask, “Do you ever think that you will go back home?” What the caseworker is actually asking is whether you intend to go home if you ever get better. If your residence is being counted as an asset, be certain to tell the caseworker that you intend to return to your home in the event that you get better, if it is true. Or, if your spouse or a dependent relative lives there, the residence will not be counted. Either way, your residence should then be exempt from your countable assets. Likewise, if you have a power of attorney for someone in a nursing home, be certain that the caseworker knows that the applicant plans to return to the home if he or she ever gets better, but only if it’s true.  

Other real estate property will be counted toward your countable assets with a few exceptions. First, if the property cannot be sold, then it may not count against you. For instance, if you own a tract of land that no one will buy, you may be able to exempt that property. However, you must have proof that you have been trying to sell the property.  

Second, if your property is producing income, and the yearly income is more than 6% of the total value of the property, you may exempt up to $6,000 of the property value. For instance, say you own a lot and are charging rent to someone who puts her trailer on it. If the lot is worth $6,000 and you are charging at least $30 a month for rent, you can exempt the property ($30 for 12 months equals $360, or 6% of $6,000). Of course, the income from the property will be counted toward the income requirement. 

Third, if your property is needed for supporting your family (such as for growing a vegetable garden that feeds your family), you may be eligible for an exemption. All other real estate interests will be counted as assets. 

For more information, see: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Income Maintenance Manual, §§ 11.4(LL), 17.10(C), (last visited May 26, 2015).