Florida Medicaid Definition
Medicaid is a wide-ranging, federal, health care program for low-income individuals of any age. However, this page is specifically focused on Medicaid eligibility for Florida residents who are 65 years of age and older. The focus will also be on long term care, whether that be at home, a nursing home, adult foster care, or assisted living.
Medicaid in Florida is sometimes referred to as the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program. The Medicaid managed care program for long-term care services for the elderly and disabled is called the Long-term Care (LTC) program. All other health care services outside of long-term care are provided via the Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) program.
Income & Asset Limits for Florida Eligibility
There are several different Medicaid long-term care programs for which Florida seniors may be eligible. These programs have slightly different eligibility requirements and benefits. Further complicating eligibility are the facts that the criteria vary with marital status and that Florida offers multiple pathways towards eligibility.
1) Institutional / Nursing Home Medicaid – is an entitlement, which means that anyone who is eligible will receive assistance. Benefits are provided only in nursing homes.
2) Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) –Florida has previously offered HCBS Medicaid waivers for the aged, but no longer does. Instead, long-term care services are provided at home, adult day care, adult foster care homes, and assisted living residences via a managed care system, which allows program participants to receive all Medicaid benefits via one administering agency. As with waivers, the managed care program limits the number of participants, which means there may be a waiting list for some services for persons who meet the eligibility requirements.
3) Regular Medicaid for Aged and Disabled (MEDS-AD) – is an entitlement, meaning all persons who are eligible will receive services. Benefits are provided at home or adult day care.
The table below provides a quick reference to allow seniors to determine if they might be immediately eligible for long term care from a Florida Medicaid program. Alternatively, one may opt to take the Medicaid Eligibility Test. IMPORTANT: Not meeting all the criteria below does not mean one is not eligible or cannot become eligible for Medicaid in Florida. More.
|2021 Florida Medicaid Long Term Care Eligibility for Seniors|
|Type of Medicaid||Single||Married (both spouses applying)||Married (one spouse applying)|
|Income Limit||Asset Limit||Level of Care Required||Income Limit||Asset Limit||Level of Care Required||Income Limit||Asset Limit||Level of Care Required|
|Institutional / Nursing Home Medicaid||$2,382 / month**||$2,000||Nursing Home||$4,764 / month (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,382 / month)**||$3,000||Nursing Home||$2,382 / month for applicant**||$2,000 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant||Nursing Home|
|Home and Community Based Services||$2,382 / month||$2,000||Nursing Home||$4,764 / month (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,382 / month)||$3,000||Nursing Home||$2,382 / month for applicant||$2,000 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant||Nursing Home|
|Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled||$948 / month||$5,000||None||$1,281 / month||$6,000||None||$1,281 / month||$6,000||None|
What Defines “Income”
For Medicaid eligibility purposes, any income that a Medicaid applicant receives is counted. To clarify, this income can come from any source. Examples include employment wages, alimony payments, pension payments, Social Security Disability Income, Social Security Income, IRA withdrawals, and stock dividends. Medicaid does not count Covid-19 stimulus checks as income, which means they do not impact eligibility.
When only one spouse of a married couple is applying for institutional Medicaid or home and community based services, only the income of the applicant is counted. Said another way, the income of the non-applicant spouse is disregarded. However, the rules change when only one spouse applies for regular Medicaid. In this case, the income of both spouses (applicant and non-applicant) is counted towards the income eligibility of the applicant spouse. Click here for additional information.
Also relevant for married couples in which just one spouse applies for institutional Medicaid or home and community based services is a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA). This is the minimum amount of monthly income to which the non-applicant spouse is entitled. From July 2020 through June 2021, this figure is $2,155.00 / month. That said, this spousal allowance may be as high as $3,260.00 / month (effective January 2021 through December 2021) and is based on one’s shelter and utility costs. This rule allows the Medicaid applicant to transfer income to the non-applicant spouse to ensure he or she has sufficient funds with which to live. Please note that the monthly maintenance needs allowance is not relevant for married couples with one spouse applying for regular Medicaid. Stated differently, when only one spouse is applying for regular Medicaid, the applicant spouse cannot transfer income to their non-applicant spouse.
**Note that regardless of the above mentioned income limit for nursing home Medicaid, all of a recipient’s monthly income, minus a monthly personal needs allowance of $130, and potentially a monthly maintenance needs allowance for a non-applicant spouse, must be paid towards the cost of nursing home care.
What Defines “Assets”
Countable assets include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, credit union, savings, and checking accounts, and real estate in which one does not reside. However, for Medicaid eligibility, there are many assets that are considered exempt (non-countable). Exemptions include personal belongings, household furnishings, an automobile, irrevocable burial trusts, and one’s primary home, given the Medicaid applicant either resides in the home or has “intent” to return to it, and his / her equity interest in the home is not greater than $603,000 (in 2021). (Equity interest refers to the amount of the home’s value owned by the applicant). If the applicant has a non-applicant spouse who lives in the home, it is exempt regardless of where the applicant lives or the applicant’s equity interest in it. IRAs in payout status are also exempt.
For married couples, in 2021, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse of a nursing home Medicaid applicant or home and community based services applicant) can retain up to a maximum of $130,380 of the couple’s joint assets, as the chart indicates above. This, in Medicaid speak, is called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA). As with the spousal income allowance, this rule does not apply to married couples with one spouse applying for regular Medicaid.
One should be aware that Florida has a Medicaid Look-Back Period, which is a period of 60 months that immediately precedes one’s Medicaid application date. During this time frame, Medicaid checks to ensure no assets were sold or given away under fair market value. If one is found to be in violation of the look-back period, a penalty period of Medicaid ineligibility will ensue.
Qualifying When Over the Limits
For Florida residents, 65 and over who do not meet the eligibility requirements in the table above, there are other ways to qualify for Medicaid.
1) Medically Needy Pathway – This program is for persons who are aged and are seeking regular Medicaid. In a nutshell, one may still be eligible for Medicaid services even if they are over the income limit if they have high enough medical bills (i.e., health insurance costs, such as Medicare premiums, and medical service bills). The Medically Needy Program, also called a “Share of Cost” Program or a “Spend-Down” Program, allows persons to spend their “excess income,” (income over the Medicaid eligibility limit) on medical bills. Once one has paid down his or her excess income to the Medicaid eligibility limit, Medicaid will kick in for the remainder of the month. This program, regardless of name, provides a means to “spend down” one’s extra income in order to qualify for Medicaid.
Make note, the Medically Needy Pathway does not assist one in spending down extra assets for Medicaid qualification. Said another way, if one meets the income requirements for Medicaid eligibility, but not the asset requirement, the above program cannot assist one in becoming asset eligible. However, one can “spend down” assets by spending excess assets on non-countable ones, such as home modifications, like the addition of wheelchair ramps or stair lifts, prepaying funeral and burial expenses, and paying off debt.
2) Qualified Income Trusts (QITs) – Persons seeking long-term care in a nursing home facility or require services in a home and community based setting have the option of putting “excess” income into a QIT. With this type of trust, a sufficient amount of money must be deposited into the account each month in order to bring the individual’s income down to the Medicaid income limit. A trustee must be named who has legal control of the money in the account, which must be used only for very specific purposes. For example, paying medical bills, personal needs allowances, and Medicare premiums. QITs must be irrevocable, which means the agreement is non cancel-able. In addition, the state of Florida must be named to receive any money remaining in the trust upon the death of the Medicaid recipient. As with the medically needy pathway, this option does not assist one in “spending down” excess assets in order to meet the Medicaid asset limit. More on QITs.
3) Medicaid Planning – the majority of persons considering Medicaid are “over-income” or “over-asset” or both, but they still cannot afford their cost of care. For persons in this situation, Medicaid planning exists. By working with a Medicaid planning professional, families can employ a variety of strategies to help them become Medicaid eligible and to protect their home from Medicaid’s estate recovery program. Read more or connect with a Medicaid planner.
Specific Florida Medicaid Programs
Like many states, Florida has replaced their Medicaid HCBS Waivers with a Medicaid managed care program. Former waivers, such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Waiver, Nursing Home Diversion Waiver, Assisted Living for the Elderly (ALE) Waiver, and the Consumer Directed Care Plus (CDC+) Waiver, have all been discontinued and replaced with the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care – Long Term Care (SMMC-LTC) program. To be clear, most but not all of the services and benefits that were available under the older waiver system have been preserved with the new Medicaid managed care model. Benefits may include adult day health care, meal delivery, respite care, personal emergency response systems, and personal care assistance, to name a few. More on the SMMC-LTC program.
How to Apply for Florida Medicaid
Seniors wishing to apply for Florida Medicaid can do so online via ACCESS. Persons can also contact their local ACCESS Service Center for additional information or assistance with the application process. Alternatively, persons may call the ACCESS Customer Call Center at 1-866-762-2237. Learn more about how the Medicaid application process works.