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

Last updated: June 24, 2021


Nebraska Medicaid Definition

In Nebraska, Medicaid is administered by the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) agency.

Medicaid is a wide-ranging, jointly funded state and federal health care program for low-income individuals of all ages. While there are many different eligibility groups, this page is focused strictly on Medicaid eligibility for elderly Nebraska residents who are 65 years of age and older. This page will specifically cover long term care Medicaid, whether that is in one’s 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 Nebraska seniors may be eligible. These programs have slightly different financial and medical eligibility requirements, as well as varying benefits. Further complicating eligibility are the facts that the criteria vary with marital status and that Nebraska offers multiple pathways towards eligibility.

1) Institutional / Nursing Home Medicaid – This is an entitlement program, meaning anyone who is eligible will receive assistance. It is provided only in nursing homes.
2) Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) – Waivers limit the number of program participants. Therefore, wait lists may exist. Services are provided at home, adult day care, or in assisted living.
3) Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled – This is an entitlement program, which means as long as one meets the eligibility requirements, services can be received. It 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 Nebraska Medicaid program. Alternatively, one can take the Medicaid Eligibility Test. IMPORTANT, not meeting all of the criteria below does not mean one is not eligible or cannot become eligible for Medicaid in Nebraska. More.

2021 Nebraska 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 $1,073 / month* $4,000 Nursing Home $1,452 / month* $6,000 Nursing Home $1,073 / month for applicant* $4,000 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services $1,073 / month* $4,000 Nursing Home $1,452 / month* $6,000 Nursing Home $1,073 / month for applicant* $4,000 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled $1,073 / month $4,000 Nursing Home $1,452 / month $6,000 Nursing Home $1,452 / month $6,000 Nursing Home
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 cash gifts, employment wages, Veteran’s benefits, alimony payments, pension payments, Social Security Disability Income, Social Security Income, IRA withdrawals, and stock dividends. An exception does exist for Covid-19 stimulus checks, which are not counted as income by Medicaid.

When just one spouse of a married couple is applying for institutional 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 and does not impact the eligibility of the applicant spouse. That said, this rule does not pertain to married couples with only one spouse applying for regular Medicaid. In this case, the income of both the applicant and non-applicant spouses are considered jointly for the purpose of the applicant spouse’s income eligibility. For more information on how Medicaid counts income, click here.

For the non-applicant spouse of a nursing home Medicaid or Medicaid waiver applicant, there is a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA), which is the minimum amount of monthly income to which he or she is entitled. This figure falls between $2,177.50 / month (effective July 2021 – June 2022) and $3,259.50 / month (effective January 2021 – December 2021). This monthly maintenance needs allowance is also called a spousal income allowance. 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, while also effectively lowering the amount the applicant spouse must contribute to their cost of care. Please note, income cannot be transferred from regular Medicaid applicant spouses to their non-applicant spouses.

*Although there is an income limit in the chart above for nursing home Medicaid, this does not mean a program participant can keep monthly income up to this level. Instead, all of a beneficiary’s monthly income, with the exception of a personal needs allowance of $60 / month, and possibly a monthly maintenance needs allowance for a non-applicant spouse, must be paid to the nursing home.


What Defines “Assets”

Countable (non-exempt) assets include cash and most anything that can easily be converted to cash to be used to pay for long-term care. Other countable assets include stocks, bonds, investments, IRAs, credit union, savings, and checking accounts, and real estate in which one does not reside. However, for Medicaid eligibility purposes, there are also many assets that are considered exempt (non-countable). Exemptions include personal belongings, such as clothing, household furnishings, an automobile, irrevocable burial trusts, and one’s primary home, given the Medicaid applicant lives in it or has “intent” to return to it, and his / her home equity interest is not greater than $603,000 (in 2021). (Equity interest is the value of an applicant’s ownership of the home). When a non-applicant spouse lives in the home, it is exempt regardless of any other circumstances.

For married couples, in 2021, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse of a nursing home Medicaid or HCBS waiver applicant) can retain half of the couple’s joint assets, up to a maximum of $130,380, as shown on the chart above. If a couple has $26,076 or less in resources, the non-applicant spouse can retain 100% of the assets.  In Medicaid terminology, this is called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA). As with the monthly maintenance needs allowance, this resource allowance is intended to prevent spousal impoverishment. Unfortunately, this asset allowance does not extend to non-applicant spouses of those applying for regular Medicaid.

When considering assets, one should be aware that Nebraska has a Medicaid Look-Back Period, which is 60 months that immediately precedes one’s Medicaid application date. During this time frame, Medicaid checks to ensure no assets were transferred under fair market value. This includes gifts and items sold for less than they are worth by the spouse, as well as by a non-applicant spouse. If one is found to be in violation of the look-back period, a penalty period will be established and one will be ineligible for Medicaid for the duration of the penalty period.

 In order for long-term care Medicaid applicants in Nebraska to be eligible for benefits, they must have a functional need for such care. For nursing home Medicaid and home and community based services via a Medicaid waiver, a nursing home level of care is necessary. Moreover, some program benefits, such as personal emergency response systems, may require additional eligibility criteria be met. For example, the inability to safely live at home without a medical alert system might be a requirement.


Qualifying When Over the Limits

For Nebraska 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 Nebraska, there is a medically needy pathway, also called a Share of Cost program, which is specifically intended for those that have income over the Medicaid limit. One’s “share of cost” may also be called a “spend down”, as one must “spend down” their excess income on medical expenses to become Medicaid eligible. (Medical expenses may include past due medical bills, Medicare premiums, home health services, private health insurance premiums, and medical expenses that Medicaid won’t cover.) One’s “share of cost” is the difference between one’s income and the Medically Needy Income Limit (MNIL).

As of 2021, the MNIL in Nebraska is the same for a single individual, as well as a married couple, and is set at $392 / month. (This figure has remained consistent the last several years). For instance, say a Medicaid applicant has $600 / month in income. Their “share of cost”, which can also be thought of as similar to a deductible, is $208 / month. Once an individual or married couple has met their “share of cost”, they are eligible for Medicaid for the remainder of the spenddown period, which is one month in Nebraska. Please note, the income limit for the medically needy program is different from the program limits in the chart above.

The Medically Needy Pathway, unfortunately, 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 their countable assets. However, one can “spend down” assets by spending excess assets on non-countable assets, such as 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 as well as protect their home from Medicaid recovery. Read more or connect with a Medicaid planner.


Specific Nebraska Medicaid Programs

1) Nebraska Aged & Disabled Waiver – To prevent unnecessary nursing home placements of elderly and disabled individuals, supportive services are provided in one’s home or in an assisted living facility. Available benefits include adult day care, home modifications, personal emergency response systems, meal delivery, and more.

2) Nebraska Personal Assistance Services (PAS) – Intended for those who are disabled or have a chronic medical condition, personal assistance services are provided in one’s home. Program participants are able to self direct their own care, including hiring select family members.


How to Apply for Nebraska Medicaid

Applications for Nebraska Medicaid can be completed online at ACCESSNebraska. Alternatively, persons can apply over the phone or submit a completed paper application to their local Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) office. To reach DHHS, one can call 1-855-632-7633, or to locate one’s local Public Assistance Office, click here. Seniors can also contact their local Area Agency on Aging office for more information or for assistance with the application process.

It is vital that Nebraska Medicaid applicants be certain that all eligibility requirements, which are covered in detail above, are met prior to applying for benefits. Seniors who do not meet the income and / or asset limit(s), or are unsure if they do, should strongly consider Medicaid planning. The Medicaid application process can be complicated and lengthy. For general information about applying for long-term care Medicaid, click here.

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