As couples age, they may reach a point in time when one spouse needs to enter a nursing home while the other is still able to live independently. When the nursing home is paid for by Medicaid, there are special protections under the law given to the spouse that chooses to live independently – ensuring their financial well-being.
The income of the non-institutionalized spouse is not factored into the needy spouse’s eligibility for Medicaid coverage. However, some states require the non-institutionalized spouse to contribute a portion of their income towards the costs of the nursing home care if their income exceeds a certain amount.
Once they’re in the nursing home, the amount of the institutionalized spouse’s income the non-institutionalized spouse will receive will be dependent upon the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA). If your income is below the MMMNA then your income may be supplemented with that of your spouse. According to the federal government, as of 2017 the MMMNA has been set between $2,030 and $3,022.50 per month.
A married couples’ assets, in contrast to income, however, are considered jointly to determine Medicaid eligibility. While their home, household goods and other personal belongings are exempt, a spouse may not be allowed to keep their 401K, IRA, stocks, and other savings. Furthermore, bank accounts, and property that is not your primary residence will also be considered. Overall, what is counted as exempt, and non-exempt in regards to calculating Medicaid eligibility will vary from state to state. In most states, a non-institutionalized spouse is permitted to retain up to $120,000 in non-exempt assets. It is important to work with a qualified Medicaid planner so you can know what the rules specific to your state are, and so that you can protect your assets.