Maryland Medicaid Eligibility for Long Term Care: Income & Asset Limits

Last updated: June 24, 2021


Maryland Medicaid Definition

In Maryland, Medicaid is also called Medical Assistance, or simply MA, and the program that provides long term care for the aged, blind, and disabled is called Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS).

Medicaid is a wide-ranging, jointly funded state and federal program that provides health coverage for low-income individuals of all ages. While there are many different Medicaid eligibility groups, including low-income families, pregnant women and children, this page is specifically for elderly Maryland residents, aged 65 and over. The focus will be on long term care, whether that be at home, a nursing home, an adult foster care 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 Maryland seniors may be eligible. These programs have slightly different financial and medical (functional) eligibility requirements, as well as benefits. Further complicating eligibility are the facts that the criteria vary with marital status and that Maryland offers multiple pathways towards eligibility.

1) Institutional / Nursing Home Medicaid – is an entitlement (anyone who is eligible will receive assistance) & is provided only in nursing homes.
2) Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) – Limited number of participants. Therefore, wait lists may exist. Provided at home, adult day care, adult foster care, or in assisted living.
3) Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled – is an entitlement (meeting the eligibility requirements ensures one will receive benefits) and is 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 Maryland Medicaid program.  Alternatively, one can take the Medicaid Eligibility TestIMPORTANT, not meeting all the criteria below does not mean one is not eligible or cannot become eligible for Medical Assistance. More.

2021 Maryland 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 Cannot exceed the cost of nursing home care* $2,500 Nursing Home Cannot exceed the cost of nursing home care* $6,000 (Each spouse can have up to $3,000). After 6 months, each spouse is limited to $2,500. Nursing Home Cannot exceed the cost of nursing home care* $2,500 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services $2,382 / month $2,000 Nursing Home 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 $350 / month** $2,500 None $392 / month** $3,000 None $392 / month** $3,000 for the applicant 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. An exception exists for Covid-19 stimulus checks, which are not counted as income, and therefore, do not impact Medicaid eligibility.

When only one spouse of a married couple is applying for nursing home Medicaid or home and community based services via a Medicaid waiver, only the income of the applicant is counted. Said another way, the income of the non-applicant spouse is disregarded. For clarification purposes, in the situation where just one spouse is as an applicant for regular Medicaid (Aged Blind and Disabled Medicaid), both spouses’ income is added together to determine the income eligibility of the applicant spouse.  For additional information on how Medicaid counts income, click here.

There is a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA), which is the minimum amount of monthly income to which a non-applicant spouse of an institutional Medicaid or HCBS Medicaid applicant is entitled. This figure may fall between $2,177.50 / month on the low end (effective July 2021 – June 2022) and $3,259.50 / month on the high end (effective January 2021 – December 2021). This spousal impoverishment rule allows a Medicaid applicant to transfer income to the non-applicant spouse to ensure he or she has sufficient funds with which to live. It is important to note that this income allowance does not apply to married couples in which one spouse applies for regular Medicaid.

*Although a nursing home Medicaid applicant’s monthly income cannot exceed the cost of nursing home care, a Medicaid beneficiary cannot retain all of this income. Instead, all of his / her income, minus a personal needs allowance of $83 / month, and possibly a monthly maintenance needs allowance for a non-applicant spouse, must go towards the cost of nursing home care.

**Persons who are eligible for SSI are automatically eligible for Medicaid. This pathway to Medical Assistance eligibility allows a single applicant (in 2021) to have up to $794 / month in income and a married couple to have as much as $1,191 / month in income. The asset limit is $2,000 for a single applicant and $3,000 for a married couple.


What Defines “Assets”

Countable assets include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, IRAs, 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 (under specific circumstances). For the home to be exempt, the Medicaid applicant must live there or intends to return to the home, and his / her home equity interest cannot be more than $603,000 (in 2021). (Equity interest is not the value of the home. It is the value of the home in which the Medicaid applicant owns). The home is also exempt, regardless of where the applicant resides or the applicant’s equity interest in the home, if there is a non-applicant spouse who lives in it.

For married couples, in 2021, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse of a Medicaid nursing home or Medicaid waiver applicant) can retain half of the couple’s joint assets, up to a maximum of $130,380, as the chart indicates above. If the couple has assets at or below $26,076, the non-applicant can retain 100% of the joint assets, up to this figure. This, in Medicaid speak, is called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA). As with the spousal income allowance, the resource allowance is not permitted for married couples with one spouse applying for regular Medicaid.

One should be aware that Maryland has a Medicaid Look-Back Period, which is 60 months that dates back from 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.

 To be eligible for long-term care Medicaid in Maryland, an applicant must have a functional need for such care. For nursing home Medicaid and home and community based services via a Medicaid waiver, this means an applicant must require the level of care provided in a nursing home. (Learn more about nursing facility level of care). Furthermore, some programs benefits (i.e., home modifications) may require additional criteria be met, such as the inability to safely live independently without modifying the home.


Qualifying When Over the Limits

For Maryland elderly 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 – persons over the income limit may still be eligible for Medicaid services if they have medical bills that are high relative to their income. In Maryland, this program is also called the ABD (Aged, Blind, or Disabled) Spenddown. The way this program works is one’s “excess income,” (one’s income over the Medicaid medically needy eligibility limit) is used to cover medical bills, such as medical care/treatment/supplies, Medicare premiums, and prescription drugs. In 2021, the medically needy limits are the same as for regular ABD Medicaid. A single applicant can have income up to $350 / month and assets up to $2,500, while married couples can have income up to $392 / month and assets up to $3,000. Maryland has a six-month “spend-down” period, so once an individual has paid their excess income down to the Medicaid eligibility limit for the period, one will qualify for Medicaid for the remainder of the period.

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 requirement 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 ones that are non-countable, such as home accessibility and safety modifications, like the addition of wheelchair ramps, stair lifts, pedestal sinks, and replacing carpet with a more wheelchair friendly surface. Other options would be prepaying funeral and burial expenses, as well as paying off debt.

 Our free spend down calculator can assist persons in determining if they might have a spend down, and if so, provide an estimate of the amount. Calculate your spend down.

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, as well as to protect their home from Medicaid’s estate recovery program. Read more or connect with a Medicaid planner.


Specific Maryland Medicaid Programs

1. Community Options Medicaid Waiver (CO) – Previously known as the Waiver for Older Adults, this program provides services to promote independent living in one’s home or assisted living residence. At the time of this writing, this program is only open to state residents on Medicaid who are currently residing in a nursing home and wish to transition back into the community.

2. Community Personal Assistance Services (CPAS) – Personal care assistance and nurse monitoring provided under the state Medicaid program, which means there are no wait lists for services. Program participants are able to self-direct their own care, allowing them to hire the caregiver of their choosing, including some family members.

3. Community First Choice Program (CFC) – A state plan option that enables program participants to receive a variety of care assistance and support, such as personal assistance, meal delivery, home health care, nurse monitoring, and personal emergency response systems. Program participants are able to self-direct their own care, meaning they can hire, train, and supervise the care provider of their choice. Since these services are part of the regular state plan Medicaid, there are no waitlists.

4. Medical Day Care Services Medicaid Waiver – Provides daytime medical day care, such as nursing and rehabilitation therapy, in adult day centers for seniors and disabled adults who require a level of care consistent with nursing home care.

5. Increased Community Services (ICS) – Transitional services are available for physically disabled adults and frail seniors who wish to return to living at home or an assisted living facility from an institutional setting. Supportive services include home modifications, personal care assistance, meal delivery, and assistive technology.


How to Apply for Maryland Medicaid

To apply for Medicaid Assistance in Maryland, seniors can apply online at myDHR, in person at their local Department of Human Resources Social Services Office, or mail a completed application to their local Social Services Office. To find the Social Services Office nearest you, click here. Seniors can download an application here for regular Medicaid, and here seniors can download a Long-Term Care / Waiver application. Persons can also contact their local Area Agency on Aging office with questions or for application assistance.

Before submitting a Medicaid application in Maryland, it is extremely important that seniors are confident that all eligibility requirements, as discussed above, are met. If one does not meet the criteria, or are unsure if they do, Medicaid planning is strongly suggested. The Medicaid application process can be both complicated and lengthy, and if not completed correctly, can result in benefits being denied or delayed. For additional, but general, information on applying for long-term care Medicaid, click here.

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