MUÑOZ BILL ELIMINATING PENALTY FOR MEDICAID APPLICANTS WHO MAKE SMALL GIFTS WINS ASSEMBLY PANEL APPROVAL

Residents applying for long-term care benefits under Medicaid who gift small amounts of their money to others in the five years before eligibility is determined will not be penalized for the transfers under legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors. The bill, A-3760, will allow residents to transfer up to $$500 per month during the five-year “look-back” period for determining Medicaid eligibility for long-term care services.

“Many people legitimately and routinely give financial gifts to family, friends, religious organizations and charities,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “No one can predict the future. You can’t possibly know what your financial or medical needs will be five years down the road. People should not be penalized for their generosity if the time comes that they require Medicaid to pay for long-term care.

“Current state law is unclear about gifting money to others,” she continued. “This measure will ensure residents are protected when applying for Medicaid assistance should the need arise.”

The measure, which was approved today by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, clarifies current state Medicaid law. Since many people try to “hide” their assets by transferring them to another individual so they qualify for Medicaid long-term care benefits, federal and state Medicaid law requires a five-year look-back period from the date of a person’s application to determine whether an authorized transfer took place.

Federal law allows states to exclude certain transfers, such as “de minimis” or minor gifts, on the assumption that the person is not giving away the money in an attempt to qualify for future Medicaid benefits. An individual may be denied coverage for unauthorized asset transfers. New Jersey, however, does not have a clear standard regarding such transfers. Those decisions are currently made by county welfare agencies.