As you age the odds of needing long-term care increase dramatically. For the average person, paying for long-term care presents a challenge given the average yearly cost of nursing home care is over $144,000. Not surprisingly, about half of all seniors end up turning to Medicaid for help with the high cost of long-term care. If you are married and foresee the need for one of you to qualify for Medicaid you may be wondering “ How does Medicaid apply to married couples? ” The answer highlights the need to include Medicaid planning in your overall estate plan as early on in life as possible.
Medicaid is a federally funded healthcare program for low income individuals and families as well as the disabled and aged. Fortunately, Medicaid does cover costs associated with long-term care; however, before Medicaid will help you must qualify for benefits. To qualify for benefits you must have both income and assets that fall below the program limits – limits that are very low. When a married individual applies for Medicaid the income and assets of both spouses will be considered when determining eligibility. To ensure that a “community spouse” — the spouse that remains at home when one spouse needs long-term care – does not end up with no income or resources the Medicaid spousal impoverishment rules were developed.
The spousal impoverishment rules ensure that a certain amount of the combined resources of a married couple remain available for the community spouse. The rules also allow the community spouse to keep a percentage of the institutionalized spouse’s monthly income if the community spouse’s income is low enough that it is not enough to support him/her. Each year Medicaid establishes minimum and maximum amounts of resources and/or income that can be protected using the spousal impoverishment provisions.
While the spousal impoverishment rules do protect a community spouse from becoming completely impoverished, that often fall short of protecting all of a couple’s assets and income. The best way to protect your assets and future income is through Medicaid planning. Planning ahead by including Medicaid planning provisions in your comprehensive estate plan may allow you to protect all of your heard earned assets while still allowing you and/or your spouse to qualify for Medicaid should the time come that it is needed.
If you have additional questions or concerns about Medicaid planning or estate planning in general, contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.