If it becomes necessary for your spouse to enter a nursing home for his or her long term care, the unknowns can be overwhelming. There may be many people ready to tell you what they have “heard” about Medicaid, such as, “They will take everything,” and “They will make you sell your house.” If this is true, what does it mean for you, the spouse who does not need nursing home care? Where will you live, and how will you afford the necessities of life?
Relying on myth and rumor is always dangerous, but it could be particularly costly when your spouse is preparing to move into a long term care facility and make an application to Medicaid. Medicaid is a joint State and Federal program that (among other purposes) provides funding for long term care for those who cannot afford it. Eligibility for Medicaid is based upon financial need. An individual will generally be unable to qualify for long term care funding from Medicaid until he has less than $2,000 of total assets available to him to be spent on long term care. But does this mean you need to spend everything—even sell your home—to pay for nursing home care before your spouse can qualify for Medicaid?
The answer is No. It is critical to understand that a number of exceptions exist for you. As the so-called “community spouse,” you may retain some qualify of life while your spouse is in long term care. The assets that you will not be required to spend on long term care to qualify for Medicaid include: your marital home, many household items and personal property, your vehicle, and certain burial expenses if properly made in advance, among others. In addition to these exemptions, federal law allows you to retain additional assets (such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc.) with a combined value up to $113,640 as of 2012. Further, you will be allowed to retain a certain amount of your monthly income, known as the “minimum maintenance needs allowance,” to use for your own purposes. As of July 1, 2012, the minimum income allowance for a community spouse is $1,838,75, although this figure may be raised based upon the particular circumstances of the community spouse.
The key is that the spouse who remains in the home will not be made a pauper because her husband needs long term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility. If you or one of your parents is in the position of the “community spouse,” you should immediately consult an elder law attorney for guidance and advice in maximizing the quality of life of both you and your spouse. Whether you will be making the Medicaid application in two months or two years, it is never too soon to begin planning.
Author: John P. Ciocco, Esq., Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio