To qualify for Medi-Cal, one must not have more than $2,000 of countable assets and $35 in income each month. But this rather scary figure leaves out the rest of the story, which is considerably less frightening.
First, the asset rules. The $2,000 limit is for “countable” assets only, and countable assets do not include your home (and furnishings/contents within your home), your car, your retirement (IRA, 401k – though there are special rules for these so don’t ever assume you can properly plan on your own with an article about Medi-Cal basics) and certain other assets. In addition, if you are married, your spouse can keep up to $119,220 (in 2016) in countable assets.
In terms of income, the spouse of a married applicant can keep ALL income in his/her name and can even receive income from the Medi-Cal applicant spouse if the well spouse’s income is below about $3,000. The rest of the income of the applicant spouse goes towards their “share of costs” for the nursing home care, and is likened to a copay or deductible.
But that’s not all. First, there are legal ways to transfer your assets to protect them, in effect keeping more than the stated limits (there are pros and cons to these kinds of arrangements, but my clients pretty uniformly consider the cons to be far less difficult than paying $10,000 or more a month on nursing home care). This kind of Medi-Cal planning is quite common even though it’s not very well known. In addition, it can be possible to ask the court to increase the limits in certain situations. There are a lot of available options for qualifying for Medi-Cal if you have more than $2,000 in assets – or more than $119,220 – even if your assets and estate are substantially more than these limits.
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