A notice of proposed policy just circulated by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services alerts planners that a change in the way DHHS defines an exempt homestead is on its way.
The policy notice says:
The purpose of this bulletin is to update the homestead asset policy for the SSI-Related Medicaid programs located in Bridged Eligibility Manual (BEM) Item 400.
The current BEM policy states that an individual can own more than one homestead; however, federal policy indicates that an individual can have only one real property that meets the definition of the homestead as the principal place of residence in which they have an ownership interest. The BEM is being updated to bring the definition of a homestead in line with the federal definition of homestead.
What Could it Mean?
The notice is both confusing and illusive.
Current policy does not say you can have more than one exempt home. Just the opposite.
So, what are they really getting at? And why so cryptic?
Are they setting us up for a big change that is only suggested by the language in the bulletin? Or am I reading too much into it?
Perhaps the use of the term “principal place of residence” is a clue.
Then again, it could be just another meaningless belch from the inner workings of a big government bureaucracy.
BEM 400, PAGES 35-36) currently says:
A homestead is where a person lives that they own, is buying or holds through a life estate. It includes the home in which they live, the land on which the home is located, and any other related buildings on the adjoining land. Adjoining land means land which is not completely separated from the home by land owned by someone else. Adjoining land may be separated by rivers, easements, and public rights-of-way (example: utility lines and roads). A homestead does not include income producing property located on the homestead property. Exclude only one homestead for an asset group. If an individual claims two homesteads, exclude the homestead of the individual’s choice.
BEM 402, Special MA Asset Rules, describes when both a client’s and community spouse’s assets are counted. If a client and community spouse own two homes, or they are separated, and each owns a homestead, exclude the homestead with:
The lower equity value for purposes of the initial asset assessment, and
The higher equity value for purposes of determining initial eligibility.
Ready or Not
These policy bulletins typically come out shortly before the BEMs are changed. So we probably won’t have to wait too long to know. To me it feels like something big is coming. But, then again, maybe not.