Washington DC Medicaid Eligibility for Long Term Care: Income & Asset Limits

Last updated: July 27, 2018

Washington DC Medicaid Definition

Medicaid in Washington DC is administered by the Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF) 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 Washington DC residents, including pregnant women, parents and caretaker relatives, adults with no dependent children, disabled individuals, and seniors. While there are differing eligibility groups, this page is focused strictly on Medicaid eligibility for Washington DC elders, aged 65 and over, and specifically for long term care, whether that be at home, in a nursing home, or in 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 Washington DC 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 Washington DC offers multiple pathways towards Medicaid 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, or in assisted living.
3) Regular Medicaid / Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD) – 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 are immediately eligible for long term care from an Washington DC Medicaid program. Alternatively, take the Medicaid Eligibility TestIMPORTANT, not meeting all the criteria below does not mean one is not eligible or cannot become eligible in the District of Columbia. More.

2018 Washington DC 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 $2,250 / month $4,000 Nursing Home $4,500 (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,250) $8,000 (Each spouse can have up to $4,000) Nursing Home $2,250 / month for applicant $4,000 for applicant & $123,600 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services $2,250 / month $4,000 Nursing Home $4,500 (Each spouse is allowed up to $2,250) $8,000 (Each spouse can have up to $4,000) Nursing Home $2,250 / month for applicant $4,000 for applicant & $123,600 for non-applicant Nursing Home
Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled $1,011.67 / month $4,000 None $1,371.67 / month $6,000 None $1,011.67 / month for applicant $4,000 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, railroad retirement, Veteran’s benefits, pension payments, Social Security Disability Income, Social Security Income, Supplemental 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 more information on 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). Simply put, if the non-applicant spouse, also called the community spouse or well spouse, has income under $2,057.50 / month (this figure changes each year in July), he or she is entitled to a portion of the applicant spouse’s income, bringing his or her income to $2,057.50 / month. Based on the non-applicant’s shelter and utility costs, he or she may be entitled to a greater portion of their applicant spouse’s income. As of 2018, the maximum monthly maintenance needs allowance is $3,090 / month (this figure changes in January of each year.)

 

What Defines “Assets”

Countable assets (also called resources) include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, 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, a vehicle, a burial plot for the applicant and spouse, and life insurance, given the face value is not greater than $1,500. One’s primary home is also exempt as long as the Medicaid applicant or their spouse lives in the home and the equity value is under $858,000 (in 2018).

For married couples, as of 2018, the community spouse can retain half of the couples’ joint assets (up to a maximum of $123,600), as the chart indicates above. However, if a couple’s joint assets are equal or less than $24,720, the non-applicant spouse can keep all 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.

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 Washington DC has a Medicaid Look-Back Period, which is a period of 60 months (5 years) that dates back from one’s Medicaid application date. 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 that one’s non-applicant spouse may have made. If a Medicaid applicant is found to be in violation of the look-back period, a penalization period in the form of Medicaid ineligibility will result.

 

Qualifying When Over the Limits

For Washington DC 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 Washington DC, the Medically Needy Pathway, also commonly referred to as the Medically Needy Spend Down Program, allows those 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 level) on private health insurance, prescription medications, unpaid medical bills, and medical expenses that Medicaid does not cover. (The amount one must “spend down” can be thought of as a deductible.) As of 2018, the medically needy income limit is approximately $809.60 / month. Once one has spent their income down to the medically needy income level, Medicaid will kick in for the remainder of the spend down period, which is six months in the District of Columbia.

Make note, the Medically Needy Pathway does not assist one in spending down 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 “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, like the addition of 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 Washington DC, 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. Read more or connect with a Medicaid planner.

 

Specific Washington DC Medicaid Programs

1) Adult Day Health Care & Personal Care – part of the state Medicaid plan, adult day health care and personal care assistance is available as nursing home diversion services. Personal care assistance, which provides aid with activities of daily living, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, and mobility, is available both in-home and in adult day health care. Additional benefits are provided in adult day health care and include supervision, meals, and therapeutic activities.

2) Elderly and Persons with Disabilities Medicaid Waiver – abbreviated as the EPD Waiver, benefits promoting independent living at home or in assisted living are provided to delay and prevent institutionalization of seniors and disabled individuals. An option, Services My Way, allows program participants to hire the individual of their choosing, including adult children, to provide personal care services. Other benefits include adult day health, personal emergency response systems, home modifications, respite care, and homemaker services.

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