The Community Spouse Resource Allowance

Many individuals rely on MaineCare (Maine Medicaid) benefits to help pay for expensive long-term care services. The MaineCare rules and asset limits are confusing, hard to find, and difficult to navigate. In addition, the available strategies for legitimately protecting assets vary depending on whether the MaineCare applicant is single or married and depending on the relevant long-term care setting (in-home nursing services versus care in a residential care/assisted living facility versus care in a nursing home). This article specifically addresses the asset limit for a married applicant residing in a nursing home, whose spouse continues to live in the community.

For MaineCare eligibility purposes, some assets are exempt, including but not limited to: a primary residence with an equity interest of $750,000 or less; one motor vehicle of unlimited value; personal belongings and household furnishings; and up to $12,000 per spouse in a mortuary trust. In addition, a MaineCare recipient may retain $2,000 in countable assets plus an additional $8,000 in savings ($10,000 total).

The MaineCare applicant’s spouse who remains living in the community is allowed a Community Spouse Resource Allowance. Congress established this resource allowance in 1988 to prevent “spousal impoverishment” when one spouse requires long-term care. The allowance amount is currently $137,400 and is adjusted annually. Added to the $10,000 that the institutionalized spouse may retain, the couple may have up to $147,400 in countable assets when the MaineCare application is filed.

For couples who have countable assets of more than $147,400, an elder law attorney can provide options for preserving excess assets. Even for couples who have less than $147,400 in countable assets, consider consulting an elder law attorney to discuss protection of all assets from Medicaid estate recovery.

By Attorney Sarah Ranger