What is the Medicaid look-back period?

An applicant for Medicaid must report transfers of assets made in the five years (60 months) prior to applying.

This period of time is called the “look-back” period. Here are the basics of how it works in Pennsylvania.

When is it? In most cases, it’s the 60 months prior to making a Medicaid application. In Pennsylvania, caseworkers go by the date when the applicant signed the application.

Was the look-back period always 5 years? No. The look-back period used to be only 36 months for transfers made to an individual. Under the federal Deficit Reduction Act, adopted in February of 2006, the look-back period for such transfers gradually increased to 60 months between February 2009 and February 2011. For transfers made to a trust, the look-back period has long been 60 months.

What has to be reported? Pennsylvania’s current Medicaid application for long term care contains the following questions:

Within the past 60 months, have you or your spouse closed, given away, sold or transferred any assets such as: a home, land, personal property, life insurance policies, annuities, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, stocks, IRA, bonds or a right to income?

Within the past 60 months, have you or your spouse transferred any assets into a trust?

If yes to either question, explain circumstances…

Note that the law requires disclosure of transfers made by the applicant or his or her spouse.

Does every transfer during the look-back period make me ineligible? No. Whether you will be ineligible for benefits depends on a number of things such as the amount of the transfer and to whom it was made. We will explore this issue in more detail in a future blog post.