Pennsylvania Medicaid Income & Asset Limits for Nursing Homes & In-Home Long Term Care

Last updated: February 18, 2019

 

Pennsylvania Medicaid Definition

Medicaid is a wide-ranging, jointly funded state and federal health care program for low-income individuals of all ages. However, this page is focused on Medicaid eligibility, specifically for Pennsylvania residents, aged 65 and over, and specifically for long term care, whether that be at home, in a nursing home or in assisted living. Make note, Medicaid in Pennsylvania is called Medical Assistance (MA).

  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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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, which means there may be waitlists to receive services. Provided at home, adult day care, or in assisted living.
3) Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled – is an entitlement (fulfilling the eligibility requirements ensures one will receive assistance) and is provided at home or adult day care.

Eligibility for these programs is complicated by the facts that the criteria vary with marital status and that Pennsylvania offers multiple pathways towards eligibility. The table below provides a quick reference to allow seniors to determine if they might be immediately eligible for long term care from a Medicaid program. Alternatively, it is worth taking the Medicaid Eligibility TestIMPORTANT, not meeting all the criteria below does not mean one is not eligible or cannot become eligible for Medicaid in Pennsylvania. More.

 

2019 Pennsylvania 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 $2,313 / month $2,000 Nursing Home $4,626 / month (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,313 / month) $4,000 (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,000) Nursing Home $2,313 / month for applicant $2,000 for applicant & $126,420 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services $2,313 / month $2,000 Help w/ 2 Activities of Daily Living $4,626 / month (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,313 / month) $4,000 (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,000) Help w/ 2 Activities of Daily Living $2,313 / month for applicant $2,000 for applicant & $126,420 for non-applicant Help w/ 2 Activities of Daily Living
Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled $793.10 / month $2,000 None $1,190.30 / month $3,000 None $793.10 / month $2,000 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. However, when only one spouse of a married couple is applying for Medicaid, only the income of the applicant is counted. Said another way, the income of the non-applicant spouse is disregarded. (For additional information on how income is counted for Medicaid eligibility purposes, click here). There is also a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA), which is the minimum amount of monthly income to which the non-applicant spouse is entitled. At the time of this writing, this figure falls between $2,058 / month (this amount will be increased in July 2019) and $3,160.50 / month (this figure will not change again until January 2020). 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.

 

What Defines “Assets”

Countable assets include stocks, bonds, investments, and savings and checking accounts. However, for Medicaid eligibility, there are many assets that are considered exempt (non-countable). For instance, Pennsylvania allows an extra $6,000 exemption, which is in addition to the asset limits listed above, for a total asset limit of $8,000. However, there is an exception. If the applicant has income in excess of the $2,313 / month income limit, rather than the total asset limit of $8,000 ($2,000 plus $6,000 disregard), the total asset limit is $2,400. Stated differently, in order for an applicant to have an asset limit of $8,000, his or her income must be under $2,313 / month. Other asset exemptions include personal belongings, household items, a vehicle, irrevocable burial trusts, and one’s primary home, given the Medicaid applicant or his or her spouse lives in the home and the home is valued under $585,000. One exception for the home to be considered exempt remains; single applicants who do not live in their primary home, but communicate an “intent” to return.

For married couples, as of 2019, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse) can retain half of the couple’s joint assets up to a maximum of $126,420, as the chart indicates above. This, in Medicaid speak, is referred to as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA). If the couple’s total assets are $25,284 or less, the community spouse is entitled to 100% of it.

It’s important to be aware that Pennsylvania has a 5-year Medicaid Look-Back Period. This is a period of 5 years in which Medicaid checks to ensure no assets were sold or given away under fair market value in order to meet Medicaid’s asset limit. If one is found to be in violation of the look-back period, a period of Medicaid ineligibility will ensue.

 

Qualifying When Over the Limits

For Pennsylvania 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 a nutshell, one may still be eligible for Medicaid services even if they are over the income limit if they have high medical bills. In Pennsylvania, this program is called the Medically Needy Only Medical Assistance (MNO-MA) program. Sometimes referred to as a “Spend-down” program, the way this program works is one’s “excess income,” (their income over the Medicaid eligibility limit), is used to cover medical bills, which may include nursing home bills. Pennsylvania 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 the remainder of the six-month period. Make note, the asset limits for Medicaid qualification via the Medically Needy Pathway are different than those listed above. For MNO-MA, the asset limit is $2,400 for a single individual and $3,200 for a married couple in which both spouses are applying for Medicaid. There is no additional asset disregard.

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 “spending down” extra assets. However, one can “spend down” assets by spending excess assets on non-countable assets, such as home modifications, like 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. Read more or connect with a Medicaid planner.

 

Specific Pennsylvania Medicaid Programs

Pennsylvania law requires that the state Medicaid program pay for nursing home care for all residents, regardless of their length of residency, if nursing home care is a medical need and they meet the program’s financial criteria. As such, nursing home care is an entitlement. However, the state also provides assistance for some residents who have both the medical and financial need for nursing home care, but wish to reside outside of a nursing home. These services are called Home and Community Based Services, and they are not necessarily entitlement programs. Waiting lists may exist.

1) Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) Waiver – Covers adult day care, home care, and home modifications, among other supports that help nursing home qualified persons to remain living at home. As the Community HealthChoices Program (more information below) rolls out in phases, enrollment from the PDA waiver to Community HealthChoices will be mandatory.

2) Services My Way – This program provides many of the same benefits as the PDA Waiver, but allows beneficiaries to choose their own care providers. Some family members can be hired as care providers.

3) Community HealthChoices (CHC) Program – This is a Medicaid managed care program for “dually eligible” (Medicaid and Medicare) state residents and persons who are physically disabled. CHC is in the process of being rolled out, but is not yet statewide. It also provides many of the same benefits as the PDA Waiver.

 

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