The look back date and the snapshot date are two terms that are important for the Medicaid application. For a married couple, the snapshot date is used to “take a picture” of the couple’s countable assets. Their countable assets as of the snapshot date will determine how much the healthy spouse (your mom in your situation) could keep as her Community Spouse Resource Allowance.
On the other hand, the lookback date is the date 5 years prior to the date of the Medicaid application. That date is important because all gifts made within that time period prior to the medicaid application will be added together to create a Medicaid penalty period where the applicant is not eligible for Medicaid unless some exception applies (which is rare).
Often these dates are confuse even some lawyers and Medicaid caseworkers. One source of confusion is that the snapshot date is a date that becomes fixed, regardless of when the Medicaid application later is filed, when either spouse first spends 30 consecutive days in the hospital and/or the nursing home. That 30 day period is called a “continuous period of institutionalization.” The snapshot date is deemed to have happened as of the close of the last business day of the preceding month…even if no Medicaid application is made until many years later.
On the other hand, the lookback date is not established until the Medicaid application is filed. Based on when the application is filed, then the look back date will be the date five years before.
For your parents, even if your father completes rehabilitation and goes home without needing to apply for Medicaid, you may want to work with a lawyer to establish your parents’ assets as of the snapshot date, and file with Medicaid simply to have that in place. It is not at all uncommon for the snapshot date to be many years prior to the Medicaid application. By getting the snapshot determined now (even though Medicaid is not needed), you’ll save a lot of time and headaches later.