When one spouse needs long-term care, the spouse who stays home faces many worries and challenges. The spouse at home, sometimes called the community spouse, not only loses a loving companion, but also faces a host of health and financial concerns. This is especially true if the long-term care spouse needs Medicaid assistance to pay for nursing home costs. If you or someone you love is in this situation, you need to understand the protections in place for community spouses.
What can you keep?
You may or may not know that Ohio law puts a limit on how much you can own and still be eligible for Medicaid. When you are married, the law applies to you as a couple but treats each of you a little differently. For example, the spouse going into long-term care can only have $2,000 in assets, but the community spouse can have a minimum of $25,728 and a maximum of $128,640.
As the community spouse, you can also earn income up to $3,216. That means you can likely keep the income you receive from work or Social Security payments. You are also allowed certain amounts for utilities, personal needs and shelter. These numbers change on an annual basis, so you should always check with a professional.
There are certain assets the law allows you to keep that don’t count against your limits. For example, you can keep:
- One automobile, or whatever mode of transportation you use.
- Your home, as long as the community spouse still lives there, although your equity cannot go over $595,000.
- Some insurance policies, such as a life insurance policy, though the terms must follow certain rules.
- Some prepaid burial funds, including a purchased burial space.
- Personal and household goods of reasonable value, including property needed for self-support.
There are other special situations that allow some people to keep certain assets, so you may want to check with your attorney about your situation. In addition, the law allows certain trusts for people on Medicaid, but they have complicated requirements.
Medicaid rules are complicated and always changing. The important thing to know is that the community spouse does not have to meet the same income and asset requirements as the spouse going onto Medicaid. Only an elder law professional can help you determine exactly how much you or your loved one can keep and planning ahead can help you protect your assets.