Q. My husband needs to go into the nursing home, and I'm very worried about how we're going to pay for that and continue to support my living at home. Someone told me there is some kind of law that deals with this situation. How do I get information?
A. The law you're talking about is the Spousal Impoverishment Law, sometimes called Division of Assets. It changes the Medicaid eligibility requirements for couples in situations such as yours. It allows the spouse remaining at home to protect a portion of income and resources. The spouse needing care can receive Medicaid sooner and without the spouse at home being reduced to poverty.
There is an excellent fact sheet on this program on the Kansas Department on Aging Web site: www.agingkansas .org/kdoa/senior_info/faq/faq_div_of_asset.htm. That's a long address but it will get you to the document you need.
The actual application is processed through the state's Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which administers Medicaid, the health care fund for the financially needy who are also blind, aged, or disabled.
The forms you will get from SRS will ask you to list all of the assets owned by you and your spouse.
The income and assets the at-home spouse is allowed to keep changes from time to time, so you'll need to get a current list. Many people find it helpful to employ the service of an attorney to help them get through this process.
According to the fact sheet I referred to earlier, right now the at-home spouse is allowed to keep:
- The home and its contents;
- One car (per family);
- One burial plot, casket, etc. (per person);
- A funeral plan within certain limits;
- The share of property allowed to the at-home spouse by the Spousal Impoverishment Law (as of May 2004, the maximum share of non-exempt resources is $92,760;
- In some situations, property used in an ongoing business.
You will not be required to contribute any of your own income toward the cost of your spouse's care, and you may be able to keep a portion of the institutionalized spouse's income for your use. You can keep at least $1,562 per month of the total income of both spouses. Plus, if there are shelter expenses (rent, mortgage, taxes of insurance) in excess of $207 per month, you may be entitled to an allowance up to $2,319 per month.
The spouse needing nursing home care will not start receiving benefits until his share of the family assets has been depleted to the Medicaid eligibility level, presently $2,000.
For more information, contact the Kansas Elder Law Hotline at (888) 353-5337; your nearest SRS office or the state headquarters at (888) 369-4777; the Kansas Department on Aging at (800) 432-3535; or your Area Agency on Aging office.
If you have a question or comment for "Sense for Seniors," write to Betty Gibb, Kansas Senior Press Service, 11875 S. Sunset, Suite 200, Olathe 66061; telephone at (913) 477-8103; or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.