If you are married, at some point in your life there is a very good chance that you or your spouse will require long-term care. Given the cost of long-term care, there is also a very good chance that you will need to qualify for Medicaid in order to cover the expenses associated with long-term care. Medicaid, however, has both income and asset limits that cannot be exceeded by participants in the program. Before the “spousal impoverishment” laws were passed, the spouse who did not need long-term care often ended up without enough income and/or resources to survive. In the event you find yourself in a situation where you or your spouse need to qualify for Medicaid, it helps to understand the spousal protection and Medicaid rules.
Medicaid is a federal health care program that is intended to help low income individuals and families with health care expenses. Because the program is aimed at low income participants, the program has very low income and asset limits for applicants. Applicants whose countable resources exceed the program limits are required to “spend down” those resources before the Medicaid program will start covering costs. For a resident of a long-term care facility this might not be a problem; however, for the spouse left out in the community it can be devastating. The “spousal impoverishment” rules, therefore, are intended to ensure that a certain amount of the couple’s combined resources is protected for the spouse living in the community. In addition, some of the income of the spouse who is in long-term care may also be protected and made available to the community spouse, depending on the community spouse’s income level.
Each year, both minimum and maximum spousal impoverishment standards are set by the federal government. These standards determine that low end and the high end of the income and/or resources that will be available to a spouse who remains in the community. The spousal protection rules can be confusing and are subject to change. If you have questions or concerns about Medicaid eligibility or the spousal impoverishment rules contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.
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