Possible Medicaid Changes Could Lead to Higher Asset Levels

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267In all states, federal Medicaid law provides special protections for the spouses of Medicaid applicants. But states decide how much the non-institutionalized spouse may keep, within a range. Connecticut's allowance — $23,844 — is the lowest. And legislators are calling for an increase.

If this legislation succeeds in reducing the amount of money assigned to the institutionalized spouse, he or she would become eligible for Medicaid assistance more quickly.

The CT Post report, in an article titled “Legislature asked to raise asset level for Medicaid spouses,”says that the bill would affect couples with assets of about $24,000 to $100,000. Right now, when a person tries to qualify for Medicaid, couples will split their assets evenly, and the nursing-home-bound spouse must spend down his or her portion to $1,600. This means if a couple has $60,000, each spouse is attributed $30,000, and the one heading to the care facility must get his or her share down to $1,600. [Note: These numbers can and do vary state by state.] This is typically accomplished by paying for initial nursing home care. Under the state’s new proposal, the community spouse would be able to keep $50,000 in assets.

The original article says that advocates believe that in allowing the community spouse to keep $50,000, it might help him or her stay out of poverty, off government programs, and in the couple's home.

Raising the allowance for spouses could save money in the long run: it could keep the spouses off public assistance longer by giving them some money for health or other emergencies that could impoverish them.

In all states, federal Medicaid law provides special protections for the spouses of Medicaid applicants. However, it’s the states that determine the amount of money the non-institutionalized spouse may keep (within a range). Connecticut's allowance of $23,844 is the lowest in the country. States like Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and Illinois are much higher. The highest is reported to be $119,200.

Medicaid nursing home costs average an estimated $6,000 a month in the state, so it can be quite an expense. Review how Texas is handling the Medicaid spend-down, and if there are any changes on the horizon. Make an appointment to see a qualified elder law attorney to discuss Medicaid in your state.

For additional information about Medicaid planning and estate planning in Houston, please click here to visit my website.

Reference: CT Post (March 10, 2015) “Legislature asked to raise asset level for Medicaid spouses”


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