What married couples need to know about Medicaid assets

Married senior couples in Georgia who receive Medicaid benefits sometimes have concerns about how assets will affect them, especially if moving to a nursing home is necessary for one spouse. Since long-term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility is usually a significant expense, couples often seek coverage from Medicaid to ease financial burdens.

Single Medicaid recipients are limited to no more than $2,000 in assets. However, rules that apply to married couples when it comes to assets and eligibility for Medicaid coverage are different. The Medicaid qualification for assets for married individuals is based on the combined assets of the couple.

Since a couple is considered one unit, it doesn't matter which spouse owns all or most of the assets. Certain assets, including the couple's primary home, a life insurance policy without cash value and one car, are exempt or not counted by Medicaid. The healthy spouse is permitted to keep exempt assets.

For the purpose of determining assets for married couples, Medicaid will divide a couple's total assets in half. The healthy "community" spouse is permitted to keep half up to just below $121,000. Anything over that amount must be spent down to the acceptable level. Some couples consider divorcing to avoid issues with Medicaid although this solution is only beneficial if there is a valid prenuptial agreement that clearly states who owns what.

Divorce doesn't have to be the only option on the table in order to meet Medicaid eligibility when one spouse needs nursing home care. There are certain legal maneuvers that may help couples legally meet Medicaid income and asset requirements. An elder law attorney can provide financial planning advice to couples dealing with possible issues with combined assets so that they can find a solution for their situation.

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