Yes, people can apply for benefits before they are eligible, with the approval taking effect on the date of eligibility. While the nursing home resident’s application is pending, generally he will simply pay his income to the facility. However, you mention a wife. In some cases, the healthy spouse is entitled to a share of the nursing home resident’s income. In others, she is entitled to a share of his assets, so he can transfer his savings to her rather than spending down to $2,000. A local elder law attorney can advise you on how this would work in your situation.
For more on Medicaid's protections for the healthy spouse, click here.
For more on shifting income to the healthy spouse, click here.
For more on transferring assets to the healthy spouse, click here.