If a person applies for long term care Medicaid (such as in a nursing home or assisted living facility), and his spouse still lives independently in the community, then even though the Medicaid applicant must have assets under $2,000, the community spouse may be able to keep some of the couple’s assets. The idea is to avoid impoverishing the community spouse, and forcing that spouse to go on Medicaid as well.
Generally, the community spouse is allowed to keep one home that she lives in, one vehicle that she uses, and half of the assets the couple owned when the other spouse became institutionalized (e.g., entered care in a nursing home). However, there are limits on the “half of the assets” prong – a ceiling and a floor. That ceiling and floor gets changed occasionally, based on the federal poverty rate.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just updated those figures for 2017. Under Community Spouse Resource Standards, you can see that the new minimum is $24,180, and the new maximum is $120,900. In other words, if one spouse goes into long term care and applies for Medicaid, the other spouse should be able to keep a minimum of $24,180, and may be able to keep up to a maximum of $120,900 (depending on assets when the other spouse became institutionalized).
This is an increase from 2016’s standards, and a positive development for our clients.
In addition, the SSI maximum benefit is increasing slightly to $735 (which New Jersey also increases slightly). The substantial gainful activity limit is also increasing modestly, which will make it easier for folks to qualify for disability benefits. The community spousal housing allowance has increased modestly as well, which means community spouses are able to keep more of their institutionalized spouse’s income.
Overall, these figures are an improvement for our clients who seek Medicaid and other benefits. If you’re interested in Medicaid or other benefits, we can explain how they apply to your situation if you call or email us.