As life expectancy increases, the phrase “till death do us part” is taking on a new meaning for older couples. Many aging Americans develop chronic illnesses or disabilities, and 70% of people over age 65 will someday require long-term care, either at home or at a nursing facility. About two-thirds of today’s long-term care costs are covered by Medicaid, and marital status can affect one’s benefit package. For some, the best way to get their care covered is to get divorced.
The Medicaid Long-Term Care benefit can be used to cover room and board at a nursing home facility, or the costs of at home care. To qualify for this benefit, individuals must be at least 21 years of age, have a legitimate medical need, and qualify for financial assistance. As of 2012, the maximum monthly income for an individual to receive this assistance was $931 per month, and other assets such as bank accounts, property, and stocks and bonds are taken into account. A person’s primary residence and car, as well as life insurance, household belongings, and up to $1,500 needed for burial expenses, are not counted among their cumulative assets. Any transactions that occurred in the last five years could also affect someone’s eligibility. Medicaid is on the lookout for individuals trading away assets at a loss to increase their eligibility, but they do allow some income adjustments depending on the circumstances.
The criteria for married couples is much more complex than that of individuals requesting Medicaid assistance. According to “spousal impoverishment” rules, couples living together are subject to a $3,000 asset cap. If only one spouse is living in a home or institution, however, the other spouse can often retain the majority of the couple’s assets and income without being penalized. When the spouse receiving care passes away, Medicaid will not seek to recoup the cost of the care until the other spouse has passed as well.
Medicaid System Encourages Living Apart or Divorcing
Financially, there are more benefits available to couples living apart than those who live together. Medicaid examines the combined income of a co-habitating couple to determine eligibility, whereas spouses living apart can have assets reviewed separately. All of the assets held by the couple, including the primary residence, are subject to seizure by Medicaid, when it comes time to recoup the costs of the long-term care. Essentially, when one spouse dies, the other is simply borrowing the assets until he or she also passes, at which time Medicaid will take what it is owed from their survivors.
By divorcing, a couple can continue living together without having their combined income count against them. This allows individuals applying for Medicaid to avoid the five-year transaction look-back, increasing their odds of eligibility, and assets held in the other spouse’s name cannot be used to recoup the cost of care. It seems illogical, but in some cases, divorce may be the most practical way for couples to stay together while one spouse receives long-term care. As a result “Medicaid Divorce” is becoming more and more commonplace.
Bel Air Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC Help Couples Get the Benefits They Need
When your spouse is ill, you should not be forced to live apart from them in order to pay for their care. The dedicated Bel Air divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC have the knowledge and resources to help you find the solution that works best for your family. We understand that every family is different, and we will apply our thorough understanding of Maryland family law to your case to get you the best possible outcome. With offices conveniently located in Hunt Valley, we help families throughout Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Towson, Bel Air, Columbia, Westminster and Essex. Call us today at 443-589-0150 or contact us online for a free consultation with one of our qualified Baltimore divorce lawyers.