Hawaii Medicaid / MedQuest Eligibility for Long Term Care: Income & Asset Limits

Last updated: June 28, 2021


Hawaii Medicaid Definition

In Hawaii, the Medicaid program is also called MedQuest, and the agency that administers it is the Hawaii Department of Human Services.

Medicaid is a wide-ranging health insurance program for low-income individuals of all ages. Jointly funded by the state and federal government, it provides health coverage for various groups of Hawaii residents, including pregnant women, parents and caretaker relatives, adults with no dependent children, disabled individuals, and seniors. However, this page is focused strictly on Medicaid eligibility for Hawaii elders, aged 65 and over, and specifically for long term care, whether that be at home, a nursing home, a community care foster family home, or an assisted living facility.

  The American Council on Aging now offers a free, quick and easy Medicaid eligibility test for seniors.


Income & Asset Limits for Eligibility

There are several different Medicaid long-term care programs for which Hawaii seniors may be eligible. These programs have slightly different financial and medical (functional) eligibility requirements, as well as varying benefits. Further complicating eligibility are the facts that the requirements vary with marital status and that Hawaii offers multiple pathways towards Medicaid eligibility.

1) Institutional / Nursing Home Medicaid – this is an entitlement program for assistance only in nursing home facilities. Anyone who meets the eligibility requirements will receive benefits via this program.

2) Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) – Hawaii used to offer HCBS Medicaid waivers, but no longer offers them for the elderly. Instead, long-term care services are provided at home, adult day care, community care foster family homes, or in assisted living residences via a managed care system. This allows program participants to receive all needed services via one administering agency. Unlike with HCBS waivers, the managed care program does not have enrollment caps, which means there are no waiting lists for home and community based services.

3) Regular Medicaid / Aged and Disabled – this is an entitlement program for assistance at home or adult day care. Anyone who meets the eligibility requirements will receive services via this program.

The table below provides a quick reference to allow seniors to determine if they might be immediately eligible for long term care from a Hawaii Medicaid program. Alternatively, one can 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 Hawaii. More.

March 2021 – February 2022 Hawaii 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 No hard income limit. One’s entire income except for $50 / month must go towards cost of care. $2,000 Nursing Home No hard income limit. Each spouse’s entire income except for $50 / month must go towards cost of care. $4,000 (Each spouse can have up to $2,000) Nursing Home No hard income limit. One’s entire income except for $50 / month must go towards cost of care. $2,000 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services If one lives at home $1,235 / month. *Income guidelines for adult foster care, see below. $2,000 Nursing Home Each spouse is considered separately. If they are living at home, each spouse can have up to $1,235 / month. *Income guidelines for adult foster care are below. $4,000 (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,000) Nursing Home If one lives at home $1,235 / month. *Income guidelines for adult foster care, see below. $2,000 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled $1,235 / month $2,000 None $1,670 / month $3,000 None $1,670 / month $2,000 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, Veteran’s benefits, pension payments, Social Security Disability Income, Social Security Income, Supplemental Security Income, IRA withdrawals, and stock dividends. An exception exists for Covid-19 stimulus checks, which do not count as income, and therefore, do not impact Medicaid eligibility.

When only one spouse of a married couple is applying for nursing home Medicaid or long-term home and community based services Medicaid, only the income of the applicant is counted. Said another way, the income of the non-applicant spouse does not affect the eligibility of the applicant spouse regardless of how much income the non-applicant spouse receive. It is important to note that income is calculated differently for a couple in which one spouse is applying for regular Medicaid. In this case, the income of the non-applicant spouse is calculated towards the income eligibility of the applicant spouse. For additional information on how Medicaid calculates income, click here.

There is an income allowance rule that applies only to non-applicant spouses of Medicaid nursing home care or Medicaid long-term home and community based services applicants. To be very clear, this rule does not extend to married couples with just one spouse applying for regular Medicaid. The Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA) is intended to ensure non-applicant spouses have sufficient income from which to live. Basically, if the non-applicant spouse, also called the community spouse or well spouse, has income under $2,505.00 / month (effective 7/1/21 – 6/30/22), he or she is entitled to a portion of the applicant spouse’s income to bring the non-applicant spouse’s income up to this level. Based on one’s shelter and utility costs, an applicant spouse may be entitled to an even greater amount, up to $3,259.50 / month. (This figure is effective January 2021 – December 2021.)

*The income limit to receive home and community based services differ based on the location in which the senior lives. While the income limit for a senior seeking long-term care services at home is $1,235 / month, any income that exceeds that amount must go towards the cost of one’s care. (This is sometime called a share of cost). For a senior who receives SSI and is seeking HCBS in an adult foster care home / community care foster family home (CCFFH), the entire SSI amount ($1,445.90 / month), with the exception of $50 – $70 / month for a personal needs allowance, must go towards their cost of care. To avoid confusion, SSI payments for persons residing in CCFFH’s are higher than for persons residing at home or in assisted living. If a senior has income that exceeds the SSI amount, $419 / month must be paid towards the cost of room and board and the remaining funds must be paid to the foster home caregiver. In this case, the senior is also able to retain between $50 – $70 / month for a personal needs allowance.

Please note that many states change their income limits in January, but Hawaii’s income limits increase in March of each year.


What Defines “Assets”

Countable assets include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, IRAs, promissory notes, 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 not counted. In other words, they are exempt from the asset limit. Exemptions include personal belongings, such as clothing, household furnishings and appliances, an automobile, a burial plot, and irrevocable funeral trusts. 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 is not greater than $906,000 (in 2021) is also exempt. (Equity interest is the amount of the home’s value owned by the applicant). If a non-applicant spouse lives in the home, it is exempt regardless of where the applicant lives or the applicant’s equity interest in it.

For married couples, in 2021, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse of a Medicaid nursing home or home and community based services Medicaid waiver applicant) can retain up to a maximum of $130,380 of the couple’s joint assets, as shown in the chart above. This is called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) and is intended to prevent the non-applicant spouse from becoming impoverished. This spousal resource allowance is not relevant for married couples with one spouse seeking regular Medicaid.

It is vital that one does not give away assets or sell them for less than fair market value in an attempt to meet Medicaid’s asset limit. This is because Hawaii has a Medicaid Look-Back Period, which is 60 months (5 years) that immediately precedes the date of one’s Medicaid application. During this time frame, Medicaid checks all past asset transfers to ensure no assets were sold or given away for less than they are worth. This includes asset transfers made by one’s non-applicant spouse. If it is determined one is in violation of the look-back period, one will be penalized with a penalty period of Medicaid ineligibility.

 To be eligible for Medicaid nursing home and long-term home and community based services, an applicant must require a nursing home level of care. Furthermore, for some program benefits, additional eligibility criteria may need to be met. For example, for Medicaid to pay for home modifications, an inability to safely live at home without the modifications may be necessary. 


Qualifying When Over the Limits

For elderly residents (65 and over) in Hawaii who do not meet the eligibility requirements in the table above, there are other ways to qualify for Medicaid.

1) Medically Needy Pathway – In Hawaii, the Medically Needy Pathway allows seniors who are categorically aged or disabled who would otherwise be over the income limit to qualify for Medicaid if they have high medical expenses. In simple terms, one may still qualify for Medicaid services by “spending down” his or her income to the Medicaid income limit. (The Medically Needy Program is sometimes called a Spend-Down Program). One can “spend down” their excess income by paying for medical services / goods. This may include paying for overdue medical bills, prescription drugs, private health insurance, and medical expenses that Medicaid does not cover. Once one has spent their income down to the Medically Needy Income Limit (MNIL), Medicaid will kick in for the remainder of the medically needy period, which is one month in Hawaii. Please note, the aged and disabled MNIL is lower than the income limits mentioned in the chart above. As of March 2020, it is $469 / month for a single senior applicant and $632 / month for a married elderly couple. (At the time of this last page update, the MNILs had not yet been released for 2021).

Unfortunately, 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 reducing countable assets. However, one can “spend down” assets by spending excess assets on non-countable ones. Examples include home modifications (i.e., the addition of wheelchair ramps or stair lifts), prepaying funeral and burial expenses, and paying off debt.

2) Medicaid Planning – the majority of persons considering Medicaid are “over-income” or “over-asset” or both, but 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 Hawaii Medicaid Programs

Med-QUEST – this is a managed care program, previously known as Expanded Access (QExA), that covers care services in a variety of settings, including program participants’ homes, assisted living residences, and community care foster family homes. Other benefits via this program include adult day care, homemaker services, personal emergency response systems, home modifications, respite care, and chore services.


How to Apply for Hawaii Medicaid

There are a number of ways in which seniors in Hawaii can apply for MedQuest. Persons may apply online on the State of Hawaii My Medical Benefits website, call 1-800-316-8005 to reach enrollment services at MedQuest, or contact their local MedQuest Office.

To learn more about the application process for long-term care Medicaid, click here.

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