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Nursing Home Costs and Protecting the At-Home Spouse

As a senior, there is a good chance that you, or your spouse if you are married, will need long-term care at some point. The Nursing Home Costs of that care will not be cheap. In fact, if you failed to plan ahead, your long-term care (LTC) costs could deplete your retirement nest egg in short order. Fortunately, Medicaid may be able to help pay for the costs of long-term care for you or a family member.

You may, however, have heard people talk about the Medicaid eligibility rules and the fear that those rules will leave the community spouse without resources. At one time, that was a legitimate concern; however, Medicaid enacted the Spousal Impoverishment Rules to ensure that a community spouse no longer has to worry about being left penniless and without resources.

Under the Medicaid spousal impoverishment provisions, a certain amount of the couple’s combined resources is protected for the spouse living in the community. The amount and type of resources that may be kept is subject to obtuse and arcane rules. No one should attempt to navigate this system without competent counsel from an experienced attorney very familiar with this process. Such an attorney may be able to help convert ” countable” assets to ” non-countable assets.”

Whether the so called “community” spouse may keep the nursing home spouse’s income, depends the level of her income. The Medicaid agency calculates how much she needs to live under a formula. If her income is less than this amount, she can keep as much of her husband’s income as necessary to get her income up to this level. The rest of his income has to go to the nursing home. If the wife’s income is low enough that she gets to keep some or all of her husband’s income, she can spend it as she wishes and does not have to account to anyone about her spending.

In special circumstances, a community spouse may seek to increase their monthly allowance as calculated under the Medicaid rules by obtaining a court order for spousal support.

If you or your loved one is contemplating nursing home care for a family member, it’s always a good idea to consult with an elder law attorney who can help you strategize to maximize the available benefits and the family’s assets. We are here to help and can protect your family’s resources and apply for Medicaid benefits on your behalf.

If you have questions regarding Medicaid for nursing homes, we would be glad to help. Just call and schedule an appointment: 603-249-5925

About the Author

Elizabeth Brown