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

Last updated: June 28, 2021


Washington Medicaid Definition

In the state of Washington, Medicaid is called Washington Apple Health or simply Apple Health. Medicaid is a health insurance program for low-income individuals, and is jointly funded by the state and the federal government. While Medicaid covers individuals of all ages, the focus of this page will be on Medicaid eligibility for elderly Washington residents (65 years of age and older). Furthermore, emphasis will be specifically on long-term care, whether that be provided in one’s home, a nursing home, an adult family home (adult foster care), 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 Washington seniors may be eligible, and these programs have slightly varying eligibility requirements and benefits. Further complicating eligibility is that the eligibility rules vary for a single individual versus a married couple, and that Washington offers multiple pathways towards eligibility.

1) Institutional / Nursing Home Medicaid – is an entitlement, which means if one is eligible, assistance will be received. Services are provided only in nursing homes.
2) Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) – only a select number of participants for enrollment. Waiting lists may exist. Services are provided at home, adult day care, adult family home, or in assisted living. More on waivers.
3) Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled – is an entitlement, meaning anyone who meets the eligibility requirements is able to receive benefits. Services 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 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 Washington Medicaid.  More.

2021 Washington 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 $2,382 / month* $2,000 Nursing Home $4,764 / month (Each spouse may have 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
Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services $2,382 / month $2,000 Nursing Home $4,764 / month (Each spouse may have 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 $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, pension payments, Social Security Disability Income, Social Security Income, IRA withdrawals, and stock dividends. Covid-19 stimulus checks (both previous and subsequent payments) do not count as income and have no impact on eligibility for Medicaid.

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. However, in the case of a married couple with one spouse applying for Aged Blind and Disabled Medicaid, the non-applicant spouse’s income is not disregarded. Instead, the income of both the applicant and non-applicant spouse is counted towards the income limit. (Learn more about how Medicaid counts income 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 of an institutional Medicaid applicant or waiver applicant is entitled. As of July 2021, this figure is $2,177.50 / month. (It will increase again in July 2022). However, based on shelter costs (rent, mortgage, utilities), the spousal allowance may be as high as $3,260 / month. (This figure increases each January). This spousal impoverishment 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. To be clear, this income allowance is not relevant for married couples in which one spouse applies for regular Medicaid.

*Please note that while there is an income limit of $2,382 / month (in 2021) for nursing home Medicaid, a beneficiary is not able to keep monthly income up to this level. Instead, all of one’s income, with the exception of a personal needs allowance of approximately $71.12 / month, and potentially a spousal income allowance for a non-applicant spouse, must be paid towards the cost of nursing home care.


What Defines “Assets”

Countable assets include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, 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, given the Medicaid applicant is married and has a spouse that lives in the home or meets specific criteria if single. For a single applicant, the home is exempt if he / she lives in it or has “intent” to live there, and his / her home equity interest is not more than $603,000 (in 2021). (Equity interest is the amount of the home’s value owned by the applicant).

As of 2021, for married couples with one spouse as a nursing home Medicaid applicant or a HCBS waiver applicant, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse) can retain half of the couple’s joint assets, up to a maximum of $130,380 as the chart indicates above. However, there is also a minimum asset allowance of $58,075. Basically, if the couple’s joint assets are $58,075 or less, the non-applicant spouse can keep 100% of the assets. This, in Medicaid speak, is referred to as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA). To avoid confusion, it is important to mention that this spousal resource allowance does not extend to non-applicant spouses who have spouses applying for regular Medicaid.

Medicaid applicants cannot give away, or sell assets for less than they are worth, in order to meet Medicaid’s asset limit. To prevent this from happening, the state of Washington has a 5-year Medicaid Look-Back Period. During this period, Medicaid checks to ensure no assets were sold or given away under fair market value. If one is found to be in violation of this rule, a penalty period of long term care Medicaid ineligibility will ensue.

 For long-term care Medicaid eligibility in Washington, an applicant’s functional need is a consideration. For Medicaid nursing home care and many home and community based services via Medicaid Waivers, a nursing facility level of care (NFLOC) is required. Furthermore, some program benefits may have additional eligibility criteria specific to the particular benefit. For example, in order for a Medicaid Waiver to cover the cost of a personal emergency response system, it may be required that a beneficiary need it in order to safely live in his / her home.


Qualifying When Over the Limits

For Washington 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 – If one is over the income limit for Medicaid eligibility, one may still qualify for services via the Medically Needy Pathway given one’s medical bills are high relative to his/her income. In Washington, this program is called the Medically Needy (MN), Medically Needy Program (MNP), and sometimes, a “Spend-down” program. Basically, the way this program works is one’s “excess income,” (one’s income over the Medicaid eligibility limit) is used to cover medical bills, which may include medical transportation, health insurance deductibles, hospital visits, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. In the state of Washington, the spend-down period is either a three or six-month period, based on the decision of the Medicaid applicant. Once an individual has paid his/her excess income down to the Medicaid eligibility limit (met the spend-down) for the period, he/she will qualify for Medicaid services for the remainder of the period. The income and asset limit for this program is the same as the Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled: $794 / monthly income for a single individual and $2,000 in assets, and $1,191 / monthly income for a married couple and $3,000 in assets.

Unfortunately, the Medically Needy Pathway does not assist one in spending down extra assets for Medicaid qualification. This means that if one meets the income requirement for Medicaid eligibility, but not the asset requirement, the above program cannot assist one in reducing “excess” assets. However, one can “spend down” assets by spending excess assets on things that are not considered countable, such as home renovations and modifications (wheelchair ramps, chair lifts, new plumbing or heating system), prepaying funeral and burial expenses, and paying off debt.

Our free spend down calculator is invaluable in assisting persons in determining if they might have a spend down, and if so, providing an approximate figure. Use our spend down calculator.

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 Washington Medicaid Programs

Apple Health (Washington Medicaid) covers the cost of nursing home care for all state residents who have a functional need and meet the financial criteria. However, Washington also recognizes that if at all possible, many nursing home qualified persons would prefer to live in their homes. Living at home can actually be less expensive for the state because doing so utilizes family members to provide non-medical care at no cost to the state.

The Community First Choice Option (CFCO) program was designed just for this purpose. Via this program, personal care assistance, personal emergency response systems, in-home respite care, and transitional services from residential living back into the community, are available. Program participants are given the option to choose their own care providers, including some relatives.

While many persons receive personal care services via the abovementioned program, some Medicaid participants receive this benefit through the state’s Medicaid Personal Care (MPC) program. Please note, for the most part, MPC has been replaced by CFCO.

The New Freedom Program was also designed to assist seniors in continuing to live in their homes. Among its benefits are personal care provided in the home, financial support for home modifications that enable the resident greater independence, and education and training for family caregivers. At the time of this writing, this program is only available in King and Pierce Counties.

Washington Medicaid Alternative Care (MAC) program, which may be referred to as the Family Caregiver Support program, is another option intended to support individuals at home and their caregivers. It includes coverage for medical alert services, adult day care, home delivered meals, and transportation.

An Apple Health program designed specifically for individuals with dementia that reside in assisted living / memory care residences is called the Specialized Dementia Care Program (SDCP).

The Tailored Supports for Older Adults program provides assistance to both needy individuals and their caregivers.

Lastly, Washington has the Community Options Program Entry System (COPES) for persons who require the same level of care that is provided in a nursing home residence. Participants can receive services at home or in an assisted living residence. A variety of benefits are available via this waiver, including home health care, meal delivery, adult day care, durable medical equipment, and home / vehicle modifications.


How to Apply for Washington Medicaid

To apply for Apple Health, seniors can do so online at Washington Connection, by phone via calling the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) at 877-501-2233, or by mailing a completed paper application (Washington Apple Health Application for Aged, Blind, Disabled / Long-Term Care Coverage). The mailing address is on the application and differs based on for which Medicaid program the senior is applying. Alternatively, seniors can apply in person at their local DSHS office. Persons might find their local Area Agency on Aging office helpful in answering program questions or assisting with the application process.

Prior to submitting an application for Apple Health benefits in Washington, senior applicants should be positive that they meet all eligibility requirements (as discussed above) for the program in which they are applying. Having income and / or assets over the limit(s), or being uncertain if eligibility criteria are met, can result in a denial of Medicaid benefits. Persons in these situations should seriously consider Medicaid planning for the best chance of acceptance into a Medicaid program. For general information about applying for long-term care Medicaid, click here.

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