Understanding Connecticut’s Eligibility Requirements For Medicaid
Medicaid is a federal/state partnership designed to help certain low-income individuals pay for health care and, in some cases, nursing home care. In Connecticut, the Medicaid program is known as HUSKY. The Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) is responsible for HUSKY’s benefit determinations and day-to-day operations.
One of the most common questions people have is with respect to Medicaid’s asset and income limits. Essentially, Connecticut residents are not eligible for Medicaid if they have countable property or income over a certain limit. DSS is required to follow strict federal and state rules on this subject.
It should be known that the Federal statutes also require Connecticut to recoup benefits paid from the personal assets of the recipient upon death. In some cases, the state must seek recoupment from the spouse’s assets upon their death.
What Assets Can You Keep?
Although the Medicaid rules change frequently, as of this writing, the basic limit for “countable assets” is $1,600. This means a person cannot receive Medicaid benefits if their total assets exceed this amount. A “countable asset” in this context can include almost any property that can be converted to cash, including some personal items, bank accounts, life insurance cash values, and real estate.
Only “countable assets” are considered towards the $1,600 limit. The most important “non-countable assets” are the recipient’s primary residence and one car. DSS will not count your home as an asset for Medicaid eligibility purposes so long as you or certain family members, such as your spouse or a minor child, continue to live there. However, there is an upper limit to the value of the home in order to not be considered as a countable asset, but that limit is quite high. You are also allowed to exempt certain ordinary household goods and personal effects.
What happens if you need Medicaid to pay for nursing home care and neither you nor another qualifying relative will continue living in your house? Can DSS force you to sell the property? Sadly, yes. The state is required to put a lien on the property and you must then sell the house for its fair market value. The proceeds must then be used to reimburse DSS for the costs of your nursing home care.
How Much Income Can You Keep?
Even if you do receive Medicaid benefits, if you have any regular monthly income, you may need to apply some of those funds, over a specific limit, towards the costs of your ongoing nursing home care. Again, there are some exceptions to this rule. You are allowed to keep a small “personal needs allowance,” which is currently $60 a month. You are also allowed to continue paying for the support of your spouse or another dependent living at home.
Could a Special Needs Trust Help?
Due to the strict asset and income limits, it can be very difficult for seniors to save any money while still being eligible for Medicaid benefits. One thing you can do is use assets to fund a special needs trust (SNT). An SNT is a trust managed by a third-party trustee who can use the trust’s assets to provide for needs that Medicaid does not cover. Since the trustee retains control over the assets, they will not count against your $1,600 limit. However, depending upon your age, the balance remaining after reimbursement for Medicaid expenses might not go to your family.
SNTs must be carefully designed and executed to avoid running afoul of the law. So if this is something you may wish to consider, it is important to consult with a qualified Canton elder law attorney. Contact the Law Office of Brian S. Karpe, LLC, today to schedule a consultation.