4 Things You Need to Know About Washington State Medicaid Planning for 2024
For many Washington residents aged 65 and older, the cost of receiving long-term nursing home or other institutional care is prohibitively expensive. Medicaid can provide benefits to cover these costs. But there are strict income limits and other eligibility requirements a senior must follow in order to qualify and remain eligible.
So if you are thinking about applying for Medicaid nursing home benefits in 2024, here are four things to keep in mind:
- There Are Strict Income Limits
Unlike Medicare, where benefits are based on your age, Medicaid is means-tested. This means that you must demonstrate your income falls below a certain threshold. These limits are adjusted annually to account for inflation, but even still they are not as high as you might think.
For 2024, Washington’s income limit for institutional and nursing home beneficiaries is $2,829 per month. This includes just about all forms of income, such as Social Security, distributions from pensions and retirement accounts, wages, and income from stocks. And even if your income falls under the monthly threshold, Medicaid requires you to put all of your income–with limited exceptions–towards the cost of your nursing home care. Fortunately, if the cost of care exceeds your income, no matter how high, Washington Medicaid will waive the income limitation.
- There Are Also Asset Limits
In addition to the monthly income threshold, Washington Medicaid requires nursing home beneficiaries to have no more than $2,000 in “countable” assets. Now there are some key exemptions here. Assets such as the recipient’s primary home, household furnishings, one automobile, a pre-paid irrevocable burial insurance plan, and personal belongings, are exempt and thus do not count towards the $2,000 asset limit. But just about any liquid asset like cash, retirement accounts, and investment accounts are countable.
- Being Married Can Help You Keep More
Washington Medicaid rules count any assets owned by a married couple towards the $2,000 asset limit, even if just one spouse is applying for nursing home benefits. That said, if one only spouse does apply, the non-applicant spouse can take advantage of the Community Spouse Resource Allowance to protect a certain amount of the couple’s assets from Medicaid. For 2024, if one spouse requires Medicaid for nursing home care, the non-applicant spouse can keep up to 50 percent of the couple’s assets, up to a limit of $154,140. This is limited to $68,301 if applying for Assisted Living, Adult Family Home, or In-Home Care benefits.
- Giving Away Assets Will Not Help
There is a five-year “look-back” period when applying for Medicaid in Washington. Essentially, this means that if you simply gave away any property within the 5 years before you applied for Medicaid, officials can assume this was designed to get around the asset limits for eligibility and impose a penalty of long-term ineligibility. The penalty is calculated by taking to total value of all gifts during the lookback period and dividing it by $391 (the average daily nursing home rate). The IRS gifting limits do not apply to Medicaid. That said, gifting can be a part of a valid legal strategy but should never be done without contacting an experienced Washington Medicaid Attorney.
It is possible, however, to “spend down” extra assets in a way that will not incur a look-back penalty.
Contact a Spokane Medicaid Planning Lawyer Today
The time to start thinking about Medicaid is well before you actually need to apply. Our experienced Spokane Medicaid planning lawyers can review your current financial situation and advise you of your options. Contact Moulton Law Offices today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Spokane Valley, Kennewick, and Yakima.