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Ask the Experts

Will Medicaid Pay Nursing Home Costs?

Qualifying could mean exhausting your assets

En español | Q. I own a home but don't have much else in the way of assets. If I have to go into a nursing home, will Medicaid pay for it?

A. Medicaid, a state and federal program, will pay for nursing home costs for people with limited income and assets. But, generally speaking, you must first exhaust your own assets to become eligible. Standards for eligibility vary by state.

Sign up for AARP's Health Newsletter.

Mother and daughter - how to apply to medicaid to pay nursing home costs

Medicaid will pay nursing home costs, but you need to qualify. — Photo by Adrian Sherratt/Alamy

Most people who live alone decide to sell their homes and use the proceeds to pay for nursing home care. After those funds are spent, Medicaid takes over.

If you receive a monthly Social Security benefit, it would go directly to the facility for your care once you are on Medicaid. However, you would be allowed to keep a small allowance for personal items.

To learn more about eligibility requirements, call your state's Medicaid office or use this federal website to locate your local state health insurance assistance program (SHIP) and other resources.

Also of interest: Uninsured and want medical care? >>

Carole Fleck is a senior editor for the AARP Bulletin.

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