Most of us know that, in order to qualify for Medicaid, you have to have pretty limited income and assets. The assets you do have, with a few exceptions, must be used to help pay for your medical expenses in certain situations. But, what about the spouse of someone who qualifies for Medicaid? How will they support themselves while the Medicaid recipient is in a nursing home? One answer is the Medicaid Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance.
Assistance for spouses of Medicaid recipients
The healthy spouse (also referred to as the “community” spouse) who remains at home, while the Medicaid recipient is in a nursing facility, has certain rights, as well. One such right is to receive a Medicaid Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA). For instance, if the spouse who entered the long-term care facility receives Social Security or pension income, most of it must go toward the costs of long-term care. However, in many cases, the healthy spouse also relies on that income to maintain his or her basic standard of living. This is where the monthly maintenance needs allowance comes in.
How much is the maintenance needs allowance in Arkansas?
Although Medicaid is a federal program, it is jointly administered with each state. State governments have some discretion in determining how their program will be run. There are federal guidelines, though, which set limits on benefits. In 2014, the maximum monthly maintenance needs allowance a state is allowed to provide is $2,931. In Arkansas, the Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance can be between $1,839 and $2,739. However, if the community spouse’s income is greater than the needs allowance, that spouse would not qualify for the allowance.
Other resources for community spouses of Medicaid recipients
The laws governing Medicaid provide additional protection for the spouses of Medicaid recipients, to ensure they have the minimum support needed while their spouse is receiving long-term care benefits. In addition to the Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance, the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) may also be available.
How is the Community Spouse Resource Allowance determined?
To be eligible for Medicaid benefits, a nursing home resident can have no more than $2,000 in assets. If that person is married, then the “countable” assets include those of the healthy spouse as well. Medicaid determines the amount of these assets as of the date when the ill spouse enters a hospital or long-term care facility, for a period of at least 30 days. The healthy spouse is typically allowed to keep half of the couple’s total “countable” assets, anywhere between $23,448 and $117,240, as of 2014.
Is the community spouse’s income protected?
The income (as opposed to assets) of the community spouse is not counted in determining a Medicaid applicant’s eligibility. Only income in the applicant’s name will be counted. This means, a working community spouse will not have to contribute to the cost of long-term care, when they stay in a nursing home is covered by Medicaid. In some states, however, if the community spouse’s income exceeds certain levels, he or she does have to make a monetary contribution towards the cost of the institutionalized spouse’s care.
If you have questions regarding Medicaid planning, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Sexton, Bailey Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.