Should you involve an attorney for even “simple” Medicaid planning or a “simple” Medicaid application?  This depends on your situation, but it has been our experience that in most cases, the prudent answer would be “yes.”

The Medicaid program began as the government health care program for individuals who were of minimal means and needed health care coverage.  Beginning in the late 1980s, Congress expanded the program to include “safe harbors” to shelter assets and otherwise allow individuals of more moderate means to obtain long-term care coverage not covered by their Medicare and other insurance.  Consequently, many people have come to rely on Medicaid for assistance in paying for care at home or in nursing homes.


Medicaid Application in Indiana

In Indiana, applicants are not eligible for Medicaid benefits if the applicant’s countable income exceeds $2,742 a month (for 2024). Applicants can also have no more than $2,000 in countable assets, although a married applicant’s spouse can keep a portion of the countable marital assets for himself or herself.

Indiana, like most states, requires Medicaid applicants to provide the necessary information to prove that they are eligible for benefits. The burden of proof is on the Medicaid applicant—not on the state. In addition to needing to provide identifying information such as a birth certificate and proof of citizenship, following are some of the documents that you may have to provide to the Medicaid agency when you apply for benefits:

  • Proof of income. A copy of any pay stubs, Social Security statements, and/or pension checks; income tax returns; and verification of any other sources of income, for example, rental income or dividends.
  • Bank records. Copies of bank statements for the past five years.
  • Property. A copy of the deed to any property owned within the past five years and a copy of the most recent property tax bill.
  • Retirement accounts. Statements for the past five years of retirement accounts.
  • Insurance. Copies of any insurance policies, including health insurance, life insurance, and/or long-term care insurance.
  • Car registration. Registration information for any cars owned by you.
  • Burial arrangements. Copies of any prepaid funeral contracts or deeds to burial plots.

Medicaid and Countable Assets

Medicaid applicants seeking long-term care assistance are limited to $2,000 in countable assets. It’s possible to transfer assets over this amount in order to become eligible, but individuals need to be careful in doing so because they may need the funds in the future and if they move to a nursing home or require home or community-based alternatives to long term care, the transfer could make them ineligible for benefits for five years.  Methods to protect assets other than transferring them may also be available through the use of the statutory defined “safe harbors” where the applicant can shelter assets in excess of the countable resource standard.  These transactions do not result in a transfer penalty.

Professional advice is crucial in situations where the applicant intends to transfer assets or avail oneself of a “safe harbor.”  While a well-intentioned friend or family member, non-attorney professional, or even staff of the applicant’s care provider may know a lot about the program, they may not know the particular rule that applies in your case or may not know the newest changes in the law.  You do not want to miss out on significant planning opportunities because of an issue you and your advisors were unaware.

Even if the applicant has very little assets, it is still usually a good idea to consult with an elder law attorney.  The attorney can advise you on how to protect those remaining assets and accelerate Medicaid eligibility.  The attorney can also review the entire situation before you apply for benefits and identify any financial transactions that you think are fine, but could result in a denied Medicaid application.  At the very least, the price of the consultation should purchase some peace of mind.  You are also likely to learn other important legal issues to be aware regarding your loved one’s care.

While Medicaid applicants do not have to be completely destitute to qualify for benefits,  applicants must prove that their countable income and countable assets meet program limits in order to be eligible for long-term care services. Before beginning the application process, it is helpful to understand what information you will be required to provide to prove your eligibility.

Assets and “Noncountable” Assets Documents

Not all assets will be counted against you for the purposes of Medicaid eligibility. Personal possessions, one vehicle, your principal residence, and prepaid funeral plans are some examples “noncountable” assets. However, you still must provide information about these assets when applying for benefits.

The state looks back five years to determine whether you transferred assets for less than market value within five years of applying for Medicaid. Applicants who gave away assets may be subject to a period of ineligibility.

The state may use an electronic database to verify some of the information. Intentionally giving false information is a serious offense.

Additional Documents May Be Needed

After you begin receiving benefits, you are not done. Medicaid reviews your income and assets every year to ensure that you are still eligible. This could involve electronic verification or submitting more documentation.

When it comes to filing the Medicaid application, hiring an elder law attorney to do this for you can be valuable.  This has several advantages, including expert advice on how best to qualify for benefits as early as possible, experience in dealing with the more difficult eligibility questions that often arise, and a high level of service through a long, grueling process.  It also frees up your time to concentrate on other aspects of your loved one’s care.

Planning for Medicaid and navigating the Medicaid application process is complicated and can be daunting.  For expert assistance understanding Indiana Medicaid laws, contact Stinson Law Firm for assistance. Our Indianapolis Medicaid attorneys will guide you through the steps you should take to protect the family members you love.

How our Indianapolis Medicaid Attorneys Can Help

If you live in Indianapolis, IN, and need assistance handling the Medicaid process, the legal team at Stinson Law Firm can help. Our Indianapolis Medicaid Attorneys have helped hundreds of Indianapolis residents get through the Medicaid process. We can guide you through every step of your Medicaid process.

Let our Medicaid attorneys provide you peace of mind with care and compassion.

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