Exempt Assets and Countable Assets: What Can you Keep and What is at Risk?

To qualify for Medicaid, applicants must pass fairly strict tests on the amount of assets they can keep. To understand how Medicaid works, we first need to review what are known as exempt (non-countable) and non-exempt (countable) assets.

Exempt assets are those which Medicaid will not take into account when a person applies for Medicaid benefits. In general, the following are the primary exempt assets:

▪ Home (primary residence), for a single person, home equity must be less than $955,000 (in 2022). The nursing home resident is required to declare “intent to return home”, even if this never actually takes place.

▪ $2,000 cash or other countable assets.

▪ Personal belongings and household goods.

▪ One car or truck.

▪ Burial spaces and certain related items for applicant and spouse.

▪ Up to $1,500 per person as a burial fund for applicant and spouse.

▪ Irrevocable, prepaid funeral contract.

▪ Cash value of life insurance if face value is $1,500 or less.

All other assets are generally non-exempt, and are counted. Basically, all money and property, and any item that can be valued and turned into cash, is a countable asset unless it is one of those assets listed above as exempt. Countable assets include:

▪ Cash, savings, and checking accounts, credit union share and draft accounts.

▪ Certificates of deposit.

▪ U.S. Savings Bonds.

▪ Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), Keogh plans, 401K plans, 403B plans.

▪ Trusts (depending on the terms of the trust).

▪ Real estate (other than the primary residence).

▪ A second car, truck or mobile home.

While the Medicaid rules themselves are complicated and tricky, it’s safe to say that a single person will qualify for Medicaid if she has only exempt assets plus cash and/or money in the bank, up to $2,000.