What happens to my assets if my spouse needs nursing home care?

Our new clients are sometimes concerned that they will have to be impoverished to pay for their spouse’s care in a nursing home.  As opposed to treatment for cancer or diabetes, the cost of treatment for dementia or other issues that may require long-term care in a nursing facility are generally paid by families rather than by insurance companies.

Individuals in a nursing home must typically use their assets to pay for their care, but when they have less than $2,000 in countable assets they may be eligible for MassHealth, the Massachusetts Medicaid program that pays for nursing home care.  Countable assets are assets that MassHealth considers when determining eligibility, as opposed to non-countable assets which are not considered.

Although an individual receiving care in a nursing home must have less than $2,000 in countable assets to be eligible for MassHealth, the individual’s spouse is allowed quite a bit more – $119,220 of countable assets in 2015.

In addition to the $119,220 of countable assets, the community spouse can also have non-countable assets without impacting the ill spouse’s eligibility, including,

  • One car;
  • Their primary residence;
  • A pre-paid funeral account; and,
  • Personal household effects such as furniture, clothing, etc. (though perhaps not including valuable jewelry, collectables, or antiques)

MassHealth’s eligibility rules are complex and frequently revised.  It may be very important to speak with an elder law attorney to discuss your options in light of current regulations before taking action to spend down your funds or liquidate assets.


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