New Medicaid Numbers for 2009

by Jerrold Bartholomew

dollar-signThe Department of Human Services for the State of Michigan has announced new numbers for 2009. Every year the numbers concerning Medicaid eligibility for long-term care are adjusted to reflect increases in the cost of living.

The new community spouse resource allowance is a minimum of $21,912.00 and a maximum of $109,560.00. This number is important for married persons with a spouse in the nursing home. It determines how much in cash and otherwise non-exempt assets the spouse living in the community will have to spend down before qualifying for Medicaid.

The community spouse income allowance, which is the income that the community spouse can keep each month and not have to pay to the nursing home has been increased from a minimum of $1,750.00 to $2,739.00. The new utility allowance (which provides additional income protection for the community spouse above the minimum protected amount) is $550.00 per month. However, it is important to note that these numbers do not adjust until April of this year.

Initially the state of Michigan did not include a new divestment penalty divisor in the 2009 figures. After much prodding by the elder law bar, it has been announced that the new penalty divisor is $6,362.00. What that means is that for every $6,362.00 gifted by a nursing home patient within the look back period, the state will withhold nursing home care for 1 month. So if a senior has given away $63,620.00 during 2009 and needs nursing home care, the state will impose a penalty of 10 months.

For many seniors, these numbers may be discouraging: particularly those related to the community spouse. DHS will require an unadvised senior to spend down to ½ of the family’s total assets with a maximum of $109,560.00 before qualifying for Medicaid. Furthermore, the income allowance is very seldom any higher than $1,750.00 based on cost of living expenses alone. With effective advocacy, however, it is not uncommon for these figures to be increased by court order.

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