In all states, federal Medicaid law provides special protections for the spouses of Medicaid applicants. But states decide how much the non-institutionalized spouse (community spouse) may keep, within a range. Michigan's allowance is a minimum of -- $23,844 – one of the lowest and a maximum of $119,220. States like Connecticut are introducing legislation to increase the minimum amount.
If this legislation succeeds in reducing the amount of money assigned to the institutionalized spouse, he or she would become eligible for Medicaid assistance more quickly.
The CT Post report, in an article titled “Legislature asked to raise asset level for Medicaid spouses,”says that the bill would affect couples with assets of about $24,000 to $100,000. Right now, when a person tries to qualify for Medicaid, couples will split their assets evenly, and the nursing-home-bound spouse must spend down his or her portion to $1,600, $2,000 in Michigan. This means if a couple has $60,000, each spouse is attributed $30,000, and the one heading to the care facility must get his or her share down to $2,000. [Note: These numbers can and do vary state by state.] This is typically accomplished by paying for initial nursing home care. Under Connecticut’s new proposal, the community spouse would be able to keep $50,000 in assets.
The original article says that advocates believe that in allowing the community spouse to keep $50,000, it might help him or her stay out of poverty, off government programs, and in the couple's home.
Raising the allowance for spouses could save money in the long run: it could keep the spouses off public assistance longer by giving them some money for health or other emergencies that could impoverish them.
Medicaid nursing home costs average an estimated $8,000 a month in Michigan, so it can be quite an expense. To understand how Michigan is handling the Medicaid spend-down, and if there are any changes on the horizon, make an appointment to see a qualified elder law attorney to discuss Medicaid in your state.
Reference: CT Post (March 10, 2015) “Legislature asked to raise asset level for Medicaid spouses”