photo: Chris Hamilton
The subject of MaineCare (formerly known as Medicaid) may seem out of place in a conservation handbook, but it is an important consideration for older and disabled landowners of moderate means who are contemplating their land's future. To be eligible for any MaineCare benefit, applicants must meet limits for income and assets that are typically quite low but vary depending on the type of care requested. Not all income and assets are counted toward eligibility limits, though. It is best to discuss your particular situation with someone knowledgeable about MaineCare to learn more about the applicable rules governing excluded income and assets.
Your home and the surrounding lot are not counted as assets to qualify for most MaineCare benefits. Other examples of excluded real property are lands that produce goods or services for home consumption or those that generate income (such as a farm, wood lot or rental camp). Other lands may not be excluded and may have to be transferred or sold to be eligible for MaineCare.
The rules governing MaineCare coverage for nursing homes costs are complex: it's best to consult with an attorney before taking any steps to transfer or restrict property. If you are in a nursing home and apply for MaineCare coverage, your primary residence is excluded even if you aren't able to return home from the nursing home (as long as you declare your intent to return home). If your spouse remains in your home, there are special rules to protect his or her income and property (including the home).
Property may be transferred or restricted by a conservation easement, without loss or delay in MaineCare benefits, if done at least 36 months before application is made for nursing home coverage (60 months is required if assets are transferred to a non-charitable trust). If you transfer assets for less than fair market value within 36 months of applying for MaineCare, you could become temporarily ineligible for nursing home MaineCare. However, some transfers are exempt (such as those to a spouse) and others may not result in a penalty (depending on the value of the asset, even if given away within the 36-month period).
"Transfer of assets" rules apply only to nursing home MaineCare and the MaineCare elderly and disabled "waiver" program. They do not apply to other types of MaineCare. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), however, transferring assets may affect your SSI benefit.
Please be aware that MaineCare rules are subject to change, and that the information outlined above is accurate only as of February 2003. It's advisable to consult with an elder law attorney in planning for MaineCare coverage. If your income is low, you may call Pine Tree Legal Assistance (1-207-774-8211); if you are 60 or over or have Medicare because you're disabled, contact Maine's Legal Services for the Elderly (1-800-750-5353).
Thanks to Paul Lavin, Director of Maine's Legal Services for the Elderly, for his extensive contributions to this Appendix.