Our law practice frequently deals with applying for long-term care Medicaid for our elderly clients. Medicaid can pay for a number of things such as nursing home, assisted living and in-home care. The Medicaid program has a number of rules and regulations and the application process is seldom, if ever, easy.
An applicant is not eligible for Florida Medicaid unless he or she meets certain asset and income limitations. Here, the Medicaid applicant must be:
- At least 65 years of age or disabled;
- A United States citizen or a “qualified” alien;
- A Florida resident;
- Gross monthly income must not exceed $2,205/month (2017); and
- Countable assets for a single person must not exceed $2,000. Assets for a married couple allow the Community Spouse (the spouse not in long-term care) to have around $120,000 (2017) in countable assets.
Medicaid long-term care benefits are only available to those individuals or couples who meet a complex list of requirements. There are many rules and exceptions that can drastically affect planning. Financial requirements are divided into two separate and distinct categories: income and assets. These two particular requirements rarely interact with each other.
Income and Medicaid
The applicant’s gross monthly available income must not exceed $2,205/month (2017). Gross income is not the same as taxable income—Social Security taxes, Medicare Part B premiums, and employee portion of health insurance premiums, are not deducted from gross income.
If the applicant’s income exceeds the designated limit, a Qualified Income Trust (QIT) must be created and funded to facilitate Medicaid eligibility. This is one reason why a good, current durable power of attorney is necessary as you age.
The income of the spouse staying at home (the “community spouse”) is not included in determining benefits for the applicant. He or she can have unlimited income. However, if the community spouse’s gross income is below a certain level ($2,003/m in 2017), the community spouse will be allowed to divert some of the applicant’s income for his or her own financial needs. This is known as the spousal diversion.
Assets and Medicaid
As Medicaid is a “needs-based” program, most individuals applying for benefits can only have $2,000 in countable assets. The community spouse is allowed to have $120,900 (2017) in countable assets. If both spouses are institutionalized, only $3,000 in countable assets is allowed between them.
Assets may either be countable or non-countable for Medicaid purposes. The most important asset, the homestead, is not countable unless it exceeds $560,000 (2017) in value. There are a few other non-countable assets such as:
- Any one car of unlimited value;
- A second car if over seven years old and not a collectible car;
- Funeral plots;
- Irrevocable pre-paid burial policies; and
- Life insurance with face value less than $2,500.
A jointly held bank account is a countable asset and is not divided among the owners. Regardless of whether a son or daughter was added to the account and has been funding it to pay the parent’s bills, the value of the account is all attributed to the applicant unless it can be proven otherwise.
There are many other rules, pages worth, and an amazing number of places where it is possible, or even likely, to make a disqualifying mistake. Legal advice is highly recommended if your assets exceed the bare minimum and you intend to apply for Medicaid.
How to Apply for Long-Term Care Medicaid
For those applicants who are already at or below the income and asset levels, it is very typical that the nursing home does the application for you. If you are at home and looking to apply for Medicaid, then you would call your local Area Agency on Aging. There is no waitlist for nursing home Medicaid but there is a very long waitlist for assisted living and in-home Medicaid assistance.
Want to Learn More?
We offer a free initial consultation for anyone dealing with their elderly loved one. If you want to get started planning for your future, or if you have questions about how to best take care of your older loved ones, call our Seminole law office today or take a moment to fill out our online contact form for a prompt response. You may also want attend a free monthly seminar in Medicaid and Estate Planning or read the following articles: