Medicaid law provides special protections for the spouses of Medicaid applicants to make sure the spouses have the minimum support needed to continue to live in the community while their husband or wife is receiving long-term care benefits, usually in a nursing home.
One of the most important protections is the "community spouse resource allowance" or CSRA. In order to be eligible for Medicaid benefits a nursing home resident may have no more than $2,000 in assets (the amount may be somewhat higher in some states). In general, the community spouse may keep one-half of the couple's total "countable" assets up to a maximum that changes each year. This is the “maximum CSRA,” the most that a state may allow a community spouse to retain without a hearing or a court order. The least that a state may allow a community spouse to retain is called the “minimum CSRA.”
The federal government just announced the new spousal impoverishment figures for 2015, which include the minimum and maximum CSRA:
Minimum Community Spouse Resource Allowance: $23,844
Maximum Community Spouse Resource Allowance: $119,220
Here's an example of how the CSRA might work:
If a couple has $100,000 in countable assets on the date the applicant enters a nursing home, he or she will be eligible for Medicaid once the couple's assets have been reduced to a combined figure of $52,000 -- $2,000 for the applicant and $50,000 for the community spouse.
Some states, however, are more generous toward the community spouse. In these states, the community spouse may keep up to $119,220 (in 2015), regardless of whether or not this represents half the couple's assets. For example, if the couple had $100,000 in countable assets, the community spouse could keep the entire amount, instead of being limited to half.
For more about the CSRA, click here.
For more about Medicaid's protections for the healthy spouse, click here.
For more about Medicaid's treatment of assets, including what is "non-countable," click here.