In January of each year, the Department of Human Services (DHS) will release the updated figures for Medicaid qualification. Typically we have seen increases as the DHS takes into consideration rising costs and inflation. However, 2009 was an unusual year as evidenced by the absence of a cost of living increase for Social Security benefits. It will probably be of no surprise to many of our readers that the 2010 Medicaid figures will also at least for now, be the same as the latest figures for 2009.
The maximum spousal share is the maiximum amount of countable assets that the at-home spouse is allowed to keep. For 2009, the amount was $109,560. For 2010, the maximum spousal share will remain the same at $109,560. This means that if the couple has $219,120 or more in countable assets, the at-home spouse will now be able to keep$109,560.
The Medicaid laws also allow for a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance. This is the minimum amount of income that the at-home spouse is allowed. For 2009, the minimum allowance that the at-home spouse was allowed was $1,822. Beginning January 2010, the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance remains unchanged at $1,822.
There is also a Maximum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance. This is the amount of income that the community spouse is allowed to keep if his or her home related expenses are high enough. Let’s say there is a community spouse whose home is mortgaged requiring a monthly payment of $1,000. This at-home spouse would be entitled to more than the $1,822 minimum. In 2010, the Maximum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance for the community spouse remains at $2,739.
In 2009, the limit on irrevocable funeral contracts was $11,450. For 2010, the limit on irrevocable funeral contracts remains unchanged at $11,450. Also, the amount a person can assign for funeral expenses under a life insurance policy has not been increased from 2009 and remains at $9,450.
In light of the Medicaid rule changes regarding gifting, it is also very important to know the new penalty divisor that the Department of Human Services will apply to any gifts. This includes birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, gifts to any church or charity, etc. In 2008, the penalty divisor was $6,191. For 2009, the penalty divisor was $6,362. For 2010, the penalty divisor is still $6,362. As an example of how this would apply, Betsy Smith gives a total of $7,500 to the First United Methodist Church over a 5 year period, if she should later require nursing home care, she would be penalized from receiving Medicaid benefits for 1.18 months (7500/6362 =1.18)
2010 promises to be another challenging year as our State is facing another large budget deficit which could result in additional cuts to the Medicaid program. Also, we could very well see the implementation of the Estate Recovery law that was enacted in late 2007. As always, stay tuned for further updates as they occur.