Medicaid Long-Term Care: Few Transferred Assets before Applying for Nursing Home Coverage; Impact of Deficit Reduction Act on Eligibility Is Uncertain

GAO-07-280 Published: Mar 26, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 2007.
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Highlights

The Medicaid program paid for nearly one-half of the nation's total long-term care expenditures in 2004. To be eligible for Medicaid long-term care, individuals may transfer assets (income and resources) to others to ensure that their assets fall below certain limits. Individuals who make transfers for less than fair market value (FMV) can be subject to a penalty that may delay Medicaid coverage. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) changed the calculation and timing of the penalty period and set requirements for the treatment of certain types of assets. GAO was asked to provide data on the extent to which asset transfers for less than FMV occur. GAO examined (1) the financial characteristics of elderly nursing home residents nationwide, (2) the demographic and financial characteristics of a sample of Medicaid nursing home applicants, (3) the extent to which these applicants transferred assets for less than FMV, and (4) the potential effects of the DRA provisions related to Medicaid eligibility for long-term care. GAO analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a national panel survey, and from 540 randomly selected Medicaid nursing home application files from 3 counties in each of 3 states (Maryland, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina). State and county selections were based on the prevalence of several factors, including population, income, and demographics.

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