Our New York Elder Law Attorneys Provide Insight Into Medicaid and Car Assets

If you become incapacitated or unable to live independently and you’re over 65, you may need Medicaid to pay for long-term institutional care in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Medicaid is a joint state and federal program that provides low-cost or free health care coverage to millions of people in the U.S. 

However, many applicants find it challenging to meet Medicaid’s strict financial requirements and have to “spend down” their assets so they’re not counted when Medicaid determines if they qualify for these health care benefits. For instance, do you have to spend down or sell everything, including your car? Our dedicated and knowledgeable elder care and Medicaid planning attorneys explain how the agency views car assets and others. 

New York Medicaid Eligibility: You Can Keep Your Car Older woman in wheelchair getting assistance into red car

There are various resources that Medicaid doesn’t count when determining if an applicant is eligible for its health care benefits, including your home. If you, your spouse, or a minor disabled child occupies the home, Medicaid exempts it from the financial limit set for qualification. You can also set aside money in a bank account for your funeral expenses or pre-pay your arrangements with a specific funeral home. Additionally, much of your personal property can be exempted. 

Medicaid also exempts your vehicle when determining financial eligibility. An applicant is allowed to own one car that’s not included in your resource limit if it’s used for transportation or by another person living in the house, such as a spouse. You also don’t have to be the driver of the vehicle. It’s important to know that the value of the vehicle doesn’t matter. You won’t incur any type of penalty if it’s an expensive car, such as a Porsche or a Ferrari. However, if you don’t use the vehicle for transportation, Medicaid won’t consider it exempt. 

If you own a second car, it will likely be considered an extra vehicle and included in your eligibility assessment. But it might be excluded from your total assets if:  

  • You have a medical need for it.
  • The car is damaged or not drivable.

Buying a Car as a Way to Spend Down

It’s important to know that Medicaid will look back at an applicant’s spending and gifting when determining eligibility for health care benefits and evaluate actions such as purchasing an expensive vehicle. If it appears you bought an expensive car as a way to spend down to meet that limit, the agency would likely view the car purchase as an investment instead of an allowed exemption. 

So, timing is important. If you bought the expensive car years before applying for Medicaid and used it on a daily basis, Medicaid probably won’t flag that as a penalty. However, if you applied for Medicaid and bought an expensive car 10 days later, this could be considered an attempt to sidestep its financial guidelines.    

How Our New York Medicaid Lawyers Can Help

The rules for Medicaid eligibility are often confusing and meeting the guidelines requires a clear understanding of New York Medicaid law. Before you initiate financial transfers or gifts as a way to spend down your assets, or you’re considering buying a new car during the application process, it’s important to discuss your application with a skilled elder law Medicaid attorney.

The lawyers at Landskind & Ricaforte Law Group, P.C. understand that you may have questions about what type of car assets and others you’re allowed to keep when trying to qualify for Medicaid. We know you don’t want to give up your home, your vehicle, or the personal possessions you’ve worked hard for all your life. Schedule a consultation with us to discuss more details of your situation and what strategies we recommend for your future wellbeing.