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

Last updated: June 24, 2021


Montana Medicaid Definition

Medicaid in Montana is administered by the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) agency.

Medicaid is a wide-ranging health insurance program for low-income individuals of all ages. Jointly funded by the state and federal government, health coverage is provided for varying groups of Montana residents, including pregnant women, parents and caretaker relatives, adults without dependent children, disabled individuals, and seniors. While there are differing eligibility groups, this page is focused strictly on Medicaid eligibility for Montana elders, aged 65 and over, and specifically for long term care, whether that be at home, an adult foster care home, a nursing 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 Montana seniors may be eligible. These programs have slightly different financial and medical (functional) eligibility requirements, as well as varying benefits. Further complicating Medicaid eligibility are the facts that the requirements vary with marital status and that Montana offers multiple pathways towards eligibility.

1) Institutional / Nursing Home Medicaid – this is an entitlement program. This means anyone who meets the eligibility requirements will receive assistance, which is provided only in nursing home facilities.
2) Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) – with these programs, there are a limited number of participant enrollment slots. Therefore, wait lists may exist. Benefits are provided at home, adult day care, in adult foster care, or in assisted living.
3) Regular Medicaid / Aged, Blind and Disabled – this is an entitlement program, which means as long as eligibility requirements are met, one will receive assistance. 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 Montana 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 Montana Medicaid.  More.

2021 Montana 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 Income must be equal or less than the cost of nursing home care* $2,000 Nursing Home Income must be equal or less than the cost of nursing home care* $4,000 (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,000) Nursing Home Income must be equal or less than the cost of nursing home care* $2,000 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services $794 / month $2,000 Nursing Home $1,588 / month (Each spouse is allowed up to $794 / month) $4,000 (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,000) Nursing Home $794 / month $2,000 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled $794 / month $2,000 None $1,191 / month $3,000 None $1,191 / month $3,000 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. Covid-19 stimulus checks are not counted as income by Medicaid, and therefore have no impact on Medicaid eligibility.

When only one spouse of a married couple is applying for nursing home Medicaid or a HCBS Medicaid waiver, only the income of the applicant is counted. Said another way, the income of the non-applicant spouse is disregarded. To be clear, income is calculated differently for married couples with one spouse applying for regular Medicaid. In this case, both spouses’ income counts towards the applicant spouse’s eligibility.  To learn more about how Medicaid counts income, click here.

For married couples, with non-applicant spouses’ with insufficient income from which to live, there is a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA). The MMMNA is intended to ensure non-applicant spouses do not become impoverished. Basically, if the non-applicant spouse, also called the community spouse, healthy spouse, or well spouse, has income under $2,177.50 / month (this figure is effective July 1st, 2021 and will increase again in July 1st, 2022), he/she is entitled to a portion of his/her applicant spouse’s income. If the well spouse has income equivalent to $2,177.50 / month, or in excess of this amount, the non-applicant spouse may be entitled to a greater portion of his/her applicant spouse’s income if he/she has high shelter and utility costs. As of January 2021, the maximum monthly maintenance needs allowance is $3,259.50 / month (this figure will increase in January of 2022). This spousal allowance is strictly for married couples with one spouse applying for nursing home Medicaid or home and community based services via a Medicaid waiver.

*As mentioned above, for a senior to be eligible for nursing home Medicaid, his/her income must be equal to or less than the cost of care in a nursing home. All of a senior’s income except for a small personal needs allowance of approximately $50 / month, and a spousal income allowance (if applicable) must be applied towards his/her cost of nursing home care.


What Defines “Assets”

Countable assets (also called resources) include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, promissory notes, credit union, savings, and checking accounts, and real estate in which one does not reside. However, for Medicaid eligibility purposes, there are many assets that are not counted. In other words, they are exempt from the eligibility limit.

Exemptions include personal belongings, such as clothing, household furnishings, an automobile, a burial plot, and prepaid funeral agreements. Funeral agreements are limited to $1,500 (in 2021) unless they are irrevocable (cannot be changed or cancelled), and if they are, there is no limit. However, if more than $5,000 was paid into a funeral agreement and all the funds are not used, the remainder must be paid to Montana Medicaid. Combined life insurance policies are limited to a total face value of $5,000 (in 2021), and one’s primary home, given the Medicaid applicant lives in the home (or has intent to return to it), and the applicant’s equity interest in the home is not greater than $603,000 (in 2021) is also exempt. (The amount of the home’s value owned by the applicant equals the applicant’s equity interest). The house is also exempt if a non-applicant spouse lives in it. This holds true regardless of where the applicant spouse lives and his / her equity interest in the home.

For married couples, as of 2021, the community spouse can retain half of the couples’ joint assets (up to a maximum of $130,380), as the chart indicates above. However, if a couple’s joint assets are equal or less than $26,076, the non-applicant spouse can keep 100% of it. This is referred to as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) and is intended to prevent the non-applicant spouse from becoming impoverished. As with the MMMNA (mentioned above), the resource allowance is only for couples with one spouse applying for Medicaid coverage in a nursing home or for HCBS via a Medicaid waiver.

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 Montana has a Medicaid Look-Back Period, which is a period of 60 months (5 years) that immediately precedes one’s Medicaid application date. During this time frame, Medicaid checks all past transfers to ensure no assets were sold or given away for less than they are worth. If one is found to be in violation of the look-back period, one will be penalized with a period of Medicaid ineligibility.

 In order for an applicant to be eligible for long-term care Medicaid in Montana, he / she must functionally require such care. For Medicaid nursing home care and home and community based services via a Medicaid waiver, a nursing home level of care is required. Moreover, some program benefits, i.e., home modifications, may require additional eligibility criteria be met. For example, the inability to safely live at home without modification of the home may be necessary.


Qualifying When Over the Limits

For Montana 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 – In Montana, the Medically Needy Pathway, also called a Spend-Down Program, allows those who are categorically aged, blind and 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” their excess income (the amount that is over the medically needy income limit) on private health insurance, unpaid medical bills, and medical expenses that Medicaid does not cover. If program participants choose, they can instead make a cash payment to the state to meet their “spend down” rather than meeting it by paying incurred medical bills. (The amount one must “spend down” can be thought of as a deductible.) As of January 2021, the medically needy income limit is $525 / month for a single senior applicant, as well as for a married couple with both spouses applying for Medicaid. Once one has spent their income down to the income limit, Medicaid will kick in for the remainder of the spend down period, which is one month in Montana.

Make note, the Medically Needy Pathway does not assist one in reducing countable 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 “spending down” excess assets to meet the asset limit. However, one can “spend down” assets by spending excess assets on non-countable ones, such as home modifications (i.e., wheelchair ramps or stair lifts), prepaying funeral and burial expenses, and paying off debt. As mentioned previously, when spending down assets, it’s important that one does not give away assets or sell them for less than they are worth. This is because in Montana, Medicaid has a “Look-Back” period of 5 years, and if one is in violation, a period of Medicaid ineligibility will result.

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 programRead more or connect with a Medicaid planner.


Specific Montana Medicaid Programs

1) HCBS Waiver – this home and community based services Medicaid waiver, also known as the Montana Big Sky Medicaid Waiver, provides benefits to physical disabled adults and seniors who require a nursing home level of care, but choose to live at home or in the community, including assisted living facilities and adult foster care homes. Benefits include private duty nursing, home modifications, specialized medical equipment, and adult day health care. Personal care assistance is also available and program participants are able to select the caregiver of their choosing.

2) Self-Directed Personal Assistance Services (PAS) – also called Montana Community First Choice (CFC), this program provides in-home assistance with activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living for elderly and disabled individuals. Available services may include assistance with bathing, toileting, mobility, preparing meals, laundry, and grocery shopping. There is a self-directed option that allows eligible individuals to hire and train their own caregivers.


How to Apply for Montana Medicaid

In Montana, seniors can fill out an application for Medicaid benefits at To learn more about Montana’s Medicaid programs or for assistance with the application process, call 406-444-4077 to reach the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Senior and Long Term Care Division. Persons can also contact their local Field Office of Public Assistance for assistance. To find your local office, click here. Alternatively, persons can call the Montana Public Assistance Helpline at 888-706-1535.

Prior to applying for Montana Medicaid, it is extremely important that applicants are certain that they meet all of the eligibility requirements that are covered on this page. If the criteria is not met, or it is uncertain as to whether it is met, Medicaid planning may mean the difference between approval and denial of benefits. It is also important to note that the Medicaid application process can be complicated, confusing, and time consuming. Learn more about Medicaid’s long-term care application process.

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