In order to qualify for Medicaid to pay for a nursing home, your income and assets have to be below a certain level. If you are married when you go into a nursing home, however, your spouse is allowed to have an income and to keep a certain amount of your combined assets so that he or she doesn’t become impoverished while paying for your care.
Medicaid’s Spousal Impoverishment Standards
Because nursing homes are so expensive, it’s easy for a couple to burn through their life savings quickly when one of them is in a nursing home. To prevent this from happening and leaving the spouse who is not in a nursing home—known as the community spouse—with no money to live on, Medicaid allows them to protect a certain amount of their income and assets. The spousal impoverishment standards, as they’re known, change from year to year. In 2021, they are as follows:
- Monthly allowance. The Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA) is $2155.00, and the maximum is $3295.50. This means that the community spouse can keep this amount to use towards their monthly expenses.
- Housing allowance. In addition to the MMMNA, the community spouse is allowed an additional $646.50 each month to go towards their housing costs.
- Resources. The community spouse can keep a minimum of $26,076 and a maximum of $130,380 of the couple’s savings and investments. If the couple’s assets exceed the maximum, the remainder of the money must go towards the resident spouse’s nursing home care.
- Home equity. If the couple owns a home, the community spouse can protect a maximum of $878,000 of equity in the home. Any additional equity would have to be liquidated and put towards the spouse’s care.
Prior to these rules being put in place in 1988, one spouse being admitted to a nursing home could quickly bankrupt an elderly couple. That is less likely now, but there is more you can do to protect the community spouse and your joint assets.
Meeting With an Elder Law Attorney Can Help You Prepare
As part of your routine estate planning over the years, you and your attorney should discuss the possibility of either or your spouse needing long-term care one day. Assets can often be placed in a trust that protects them from a nursing home, but this must be done at least five years before needing a nursing home. At Ross & Shoalmire, our Elder Law attorneys are always looking ahead so that our clients are prepared for whatever might happen down the road. Contact us to talk about a long-term care plan today.