By Harry S. Margolis
Medicaid (MassHealth in Massachusetts) is health insurance for people who can't afford to buy private insurance. But its coverage is much broader than that of private health insurance, including coverage of long-term care costs, paying for nursing home care, and in some instances, for assisted living and home health care. To qualify, you must satisfy very complicated financial eligibility rules—rules that often can be traps for the unwary.
One of the most significant traps is Medicaid's right to recover its expenses from your estate after you die. Since about the only asset you're allowed to own and still get Medicaid coverage is your home, this right of estate recovery is the state's claim against your home. In other words, if you own a home, Medicaid is really a loan. It will pay for your care, but your house will have to be sold when you die to repay the state for the services it provided.