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

Last updated: June 28, 2021


Wisconsin Medicaid Definition

Medicaid is a wide-ranging, jointly funded state and federal health care program for low-income people of all ages, including pregnant women, children, families, disabled individuals, and seniors. That said, the focus of this page is on Medicaid eligibility for Wisconsin senior residents (65 and over), and specifically for long-term care Medicaid, whether that is in one’s home, a nursing home facility, an adult foster care home, or in assisted living. In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Division of Medicaid Services (DMS) administers the state’s long-term care Medicaid Programs for the elderly.

  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 Wisconsin seniors may be eligible. These programs do not have all the same eligibility requirements, nor do they have the same benefits.

1) Institutional / Nursing Home Medicaid – is an entitlement (anyone who is eligible will receive assistance) and is provided only in nursing homes.
2) Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) – limited number of participants. Provided at home, adult day care, adult family home, or in assisted living.
3) Regular Medicaid / Elderly, Blind, or Disabled – is an entitlement (if eligibility requirements are met, services will be received) 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 Wisconsin offers multiple pathways towards Medicaid 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 Wisconsin Medicaid program. Alternatively, one can take the Medicaid Eligibility Test. IMPORTANT, not meeting all the criteria below does not mean one is not eligible or cannot become eligible for long-term care Medicaid in Wisconsin. More.

2021 Wisconsin 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* $4,000 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 or Intermediate Care Facility $4,764 / month $4,000 Nursing Home or Intermediate Care Facility $2,382 / month for applicant $2,000 for applicant & $130,380 for non-applicant Nursing Home or Intermediate Care Facility
Regular Medicaid / Elderly Blind and Disabled (EBD) $877.78 /month $2,000 None $1,323.05 / month $3,000 None $1,323.05 / 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, Veterans benefits, rental income, and stock dividends. Medicaid makes an exception for Covid-19 stimulus checks, as they are not counted as income, and therefore, do not impact eligibility.

When just one spouse of a married couple is applying for nursing home Medicaid or benefits via a HCBS Medicaid waiver, only the income of the applicant is counted towards eligibility. To avoid any confusion, this is not true for married couples with one spouse applying for regular Medicaid. In this situation, the income of both spouses counts toward the eligibility of the applicant spouse. Learn more here.

For married couples with one spouse applying for institutional Medicaid or a Medicaid waiver, there is a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA). This is the minimum amount of monthly income in which a non-applicant (community) spouse is entitled. From July 2021 through June 2022, this figure is $2,903.34. Simply stated, a non-applicant spouse may be transferred up to $2,903.34 / month from his or her applicant spouse to bring the non-applicant’s monthly income up to this amount. However, based on shelter and utility costs, a non-applicant spouse may be transferred as much as $3,259.50 / month from his or her non-applicant spouse. (This figure is effective January 2021 – December 2021). This spousal income allowance is in place to prevent impoverishment of the community spouse. It is important to mention that the non-applicant spouse of a regular Medicaid applicant is not entitled to a MMMNA.

*While there is a monthly income limit of $2,382 / month (in 2021) for nursing home Medicaid, a beneficiary must pay nearly all of his or her income towards the cost of nursing home care. Beneficiaries are only entitled to a personal needs allowance of $45 / month, and if applicable, pay a monthly income allowance to a non-applicant spouse.


What Defines “Assets”

Countable assets (resources) include cash, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, 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 considered exempt (non-countable). Exemptions include IRA’s and 401K’s in payout status, personal belongings, household items, such as furniture and appliances, 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 or her home equity interest is no more than $750,000 (in 2021). (The amount of the home’s value owned by the applicant is his or her equity interest). The home is also exempt, regardless of any other circumstances, if the applicant has a spouse living in it.

For married couples, in 2021, the community spouse (the non-applicant spouse) of a nursing home Medicaid or HCBS waiver applicant can keep half of the couple’s assets, up to $130,380, as shown in the chart above. If the couple has assets equal to or under $100,000, the non-applicant spouse is able to retain $50,000 of the assets. This, in Medicaid speak, is called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA). In Wisconsin, this is also known as a Community Spouse Asset Share (CSAS). Like the spousal income allowance, this non-applicant resource allowance does not extend to married couples with one spouse applying for regular Medicaid.

 To be eligible for long-term care Medicaid in Wisconsin, an applicant’s functional need is a factor. For nursing home Medicaid and many HCBS Medicaid waivers, a nursing facility level of care is required. Furthermore, meeting additional eligibility criteria may be necessary for some program benefits. For example, for Medicaid to pay for home modifications, it may be required an applicant be unable to safely live at home without the modifications.


Qualifying When Over the Limits

For Wisconsin residents, 65 and over who do not meet the eligibility requirements in the table above, there are other ways to meet the qualifications for Medicaid.

1) Medically Needy Pathway – In Wisconsin, the Medically Needy Pathway, also called the Medicaid Deductible Program, allows seniors who would otherwise be over the income limit to qualify for Medicaid if they have high medical bills. This program is intended for those that are categorically elderly, blind or disabled. In simple terms, one may still qualify for Medicaid services by paying a “Deductible”. (Taking one’s countable monthly income and subtracting the income limit for the program is a simplified definition of how one’s deductible is calculated.)

For the Medicaid Deductible Program, as of February 2021, the income limit is $1,073.33 / month for a single senior applicant and is $1,451.67 / month for a household of two. Sometimes called a Spend Down program, one’s “excess income,” (the amount that is determined as one’s deductible), is used to cover medical bills. Once one has paid his or her deductible, Medicaid will kick in for the remainder of the deductible period, which is six months in Wisconsin. This program, regardless of name, provides a means to “spend down” one’s extra income in order to qualify for Medicaid.

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 reducing countable assets. However, one can reduce their assets by spending excess assets on ones that are not counted towards the asset limit, such as home modifications, like the addition of wheelchair ramps or stair lifts, prepaying funeral and burial expenses, and paying off debt.

When spending down assets, it’s important that one does not give away assets or sell them way under market value. This is because in Wisconsin, Medicaid has a “Look-Back” period of 5 years that immediately precedes one’s Medicaid application date, and if one violates this rule, a period of Medicaid ineligibility may result.

 Our free spend down calculator can assist persons in determining if they might have a spend down, and if so, provide an estimate of the amount.

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 to protect their home from Medicaid’s estate recovery program. Read more or connect with a Medicaid planner.


Specific Wisconsin Medicaid Programs

1) Family Care and Family Care Partnership – Two managed care programs that allow program participants the freedom to direct their own care, including hiring the caregiver of their choosing. The Partnership program covers medical care and prescription drugs, while Family Care only covers non-medical care.

2) IRIS Program – This Medicaid Waiver, Include, Respect, I Self-Direct, is a consumer directed program, and with the assistance of a case manager, a plan of care is put into place. Benefits may include adult day care, adult foster care, home modifications, live-in caregivers, and more.

3) Medicaid Personal Care – Also called Medical Assistance Personal Care (MAPC), assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and some Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), such as bathing, grooming, mobility, meal preparation, and laundry is provided.


How to Apply for Wisconsin Medicaid

To apply for Family Care/Family Care Partnership or IRIS in Wisconsin, or to learn more about these programs, seniors should contact their local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). To apply for regular Medicaid, which includes Medicaid Personal Care, seniors can do so online at ACCESS, by phone, in person via their local Income Maintenance and Tribal Agency, or by submitting a completed paper application.

It’s very important that seniors applying for Medicaid in Wisconsin be certain that they meet all eligibility requirements (in detail above) prior to submitting their completed application. Elderly applicants who have income and / or resources in excess of the limit(s) should consider Medicaid planning for the best chance of receiving Medicaid benefits. While the application process can be complicated and lengthy, persons can learn more about the process here.

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