Medicaid and Spousal Impoverishment

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Your spouse has a severe medical condition, but you’re coping well. Then a fall lands your spouse in the hospital and from there to a rehab facility—and it appears permanent nursing home care is the best option.

Up to this point your health insurance and Medicare have helped pay the bills. But nursing homes are expensive—perhaps as much as $3,000-$6,000 per month—and the cost is not covered by Medicare. You see your life savings disappearing. Added to the worry about your spouse is the fear of ending up penniless.

What can you do?

One possible solution: Find out if you’re eligible for Medicaid, a government program that’s jointly funded by the states and the federal government and run by individual states. If so, you may be able to receive help paying the nursing home bills while coming under the protection of spousal impoverishment rules. These rules are designed to help you retain a certain amount of income and assets.

Specific requirements for Medicaid eligibility vary from state to state, but all involve an assessment of your financial resources. In general, everything except your home, household goods, car and burial funds is considered a countable resource. The dollar amount of these resources must fall below the state’s resource standard for you to be eligible for the program.

To find out if you can sign up for Medicaid, contact an elder law attorney, your state agency, or check on line at

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