Spousal Impoverishment

While eligibility criteria to receive Medicaid for the elderly and disabled is stringent, federal regulations have been implemented to prevent impoverishment to the community spouse (i.e., the spouse who is at home; not the applicant, or institutionalized spouse).

First, the community spouse is not limited on the amount of income he/she receives in his/her own name. Conversely, the spouse at home is entitled to a minimum monthly needs allowance (“MMNA”), which is generally adjusted annually for inflation. The 2017 allowance is $3022.50. If the community spouse’s monthly income is under this amount, then as much of the applicant’s income as is necessary to meet the MMNA is diverted to the community spouse prior to paying any care facility expenses. In addition to income safeguards, when one spouse remains at home there is a spousal protected resource amount (“SPRA”) established. This is an amount of otherwise-countable resources that is protected for the community spouse. For 2017, the SPRA minimum is $24,800; the maximum $120,900.

Finally, there is also interplay between the MMNA and SPRA. If, after diverting the entire applicant’s income to the community spouse still results in a shortfall to the MMNA, the SPRA may be expanded beyond the current maximum amount. If there is a community spouse at home, working with an elder law attorney is essential to ensure that these federal safeguards are met. Do not rely on untrained professionals to protect the spouse at home.

This article is written by an attorney at Wyatt & Mirabella, PC. Always consult an attorney before making any legal decisions. To make an appointment today for a free consultation, please click here to contact us.