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In order to be eligible for Medicaid benefits a nursing home resident may have no more than $2,000 in "countable" assets (the figure may be somewhat higher in some states). Note that Medicaid is a state-run program, so the rules are somewhat different in each state, although there are federal guidelines that the states must follow.
The spouse of a nursing home resident -- called the "community spouse" -- is limited to one-half of the couple's joint assets up to $117,240 (in 2014) in "countable" assets. This figure changes each year to reflect inflation. Called the "community spouse resource allowance," this is 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 $23,448 (in 2014).
Example: 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 $117,240 (in 2014), 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.
All assets are counted against these limits unless the assets fall within the short list of "noncountable" assets. These include the following:
There are steps you can take to protect your assets and qualify for Medicaid. For information about Medicaid planning, click here.
For more information about Medicaid’s rules click here.