The Medicaid 5-Year Look Back Period Explained

There is nothing in Medicaid Law that causes more confusion than the 5-Year Look
Back Period. Many people mistakenly believe that you can’t do any planning within
5 years of needing care. This isn’t exactly true. Here’s how the Look Back Period
If you go into a nursing home and want to apply for Medicaid benefits to pay the bill,
you must be below the low asset thresholds. Many families try to transfer assets to
their children so that they can qualify without spending all of their money. But,
when you apply for Medicaid they ask if you have gifted any assets during the last 5
If you have made gifts, the state will impose a penalty period, which is a period of
time that Medicaid will not pay for your care. The length of the penalty period
depends on the amount of the gift.
Outright gifting is risky. The nursing home is providing care and they deserve to be
paid. But if you aren’t eligible for Medicaid because you gave away your assets, then
no one is paying them. This could force the nursing home to sue your kids for the
If your family has already made gifts, there are ways to fix the problem even if your
loved one is already in the nursing home. There are also less risky options for
eligibility planning than outright gifting.
To learn more, consider attending one of our Elder Law Workshops or call to
schedule an initial consultation.