An empty wheelchair in a nursing home setting.
The agency governing the Medicaid program in New Jersey is the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (DMAHS). On March 26, 2024, DMAHS announced an increase in the Medicaid penalty divisor from $384.57 to $440.10 per day, amounting to $13,395.50 per month, effective April 1, 2024. For all cases received on or after April 1, 2024, the new daily penalty divisor of $440.10 per day will be used in the calculation.

What is the Medicaid “penalty divisor?”

When a resident of New Jersey applies for Medicaid benefits, DMAHS “looks back” to determine if the applicant (or the applicant’s spouse, if the applicant is married) transferred assets for less than fair market value (in other words, made a gift) at any time within the five (5) year period prior to the date of the application. This is often referred to as Medicaid’s “5 year look-back period.”

How is the penalty divisor used by Medicaid?

DMAHS calculates the “penalty period,” or the period of ineligibility for Medicaid benefits resulting from a gift, by determining the number of months of care in a nursing home that the gifted assets could have paid for had the applicant retained the assets rather than gifted them. To determine the length of the penalty period, the agency divides the value of the gift by the average monthly cost of nursing home care in New Jersey. The average monthly cost of care in a New Jersey nursing home is calculated by Medicaid every few years by surveying all the nursing homes in the State, and is referred to as the “penalty divisor.”

The DMAHS notice (“Medicaid Communication”) announcing the increased penalty divisor is attached here.