In a prior LISTEN TO LAWRENCE LETTER, you talked about the income of the stay-at-home spouse with the other spouse applying for Medicaid when entering a nursing home. What about the stay-at-home spouse’s assets that are in her name only? For example: CDs, bank account, pension, or 403B? Can Medicaid touch those?
The answer is yes and no. First, the spouse at home is allowed to keep a certain exempt amount. It is a complicated formula depending on how much money the couple has, but suffice it to say that the upper number is $148,620 this year. This is called the “community spouse resource allowance.” This number can be even higher as the at-home spouse’s retirement assets can be maneuvered to be excluded and a home is exempt as long as the spouse is living in the house. Beyond these amounts, the assets are not exempt but remember that New York Medicaid follows the “spousal refusal” rules, that is, if the stay-at-home spouse refuses to contribute to the nursing home spouse’s expenses, then Medicaid has to process the Medicaid application as if these excess assets do not exist. Having said that, Medicaid can sue the at-home spouse to contribute, but they have not in Suffolk County and stopped doing so in Nassau years ago. Why? It is bad politics and bad policy to try and impoverish the stay-at-home spouse…for now!
The bottom line is that the at-home spouse should be able to keep everything he or she has…..until the law and policies change. The best advice I can give you is to be aggressive in your planning now, staying ahead of future changes.
I hope this helps! Please forward this information to your friends and relatives to share these informative answers to some very commonly asked questions.