What is the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance?
When applying for Medicaid, be that in a nursing home or for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) via a Medicaid Waiver, there are both income and asset limits that must be met. For married couples, with just one spouse applying for benefits, there are spousal impoverishment rules in place to prevent the non-applicant spouse, often called the community spouse or well spouse, from having too little income on which to live. There is the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA). It allows a Medicaid applicant spouse to transfer income to his/her non-applicant spouse.
The MMMNA is an income allowance that allows a married applicant to transfer a portion, or all, of his/her income to the non-applicant spouse who earns little to no income. Medicaid’s income limit is fairly restrictive, so this rule is in place to ensure the non-applicant spouse is left with sufficient income. That said, the community spouse’s income must fall under a certain level in order for the applicant spouse, also called the institutionalized spouse, to transfer funds to his/her spouse.
It should be mentioned that there is also a Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA), which protects a certain amount of the couple’s resources for the community spouse. Only the MMMNA will be covered in this article, but one can learn more about the CSRA here.
Min. and Max. MMMNA Figures for 2019
As of July 1, 2018, the MMMNA is $2,057.50 / month in 48 states and in the District of Columbia. Due to the higher cost of living, Hawaii has a MMMNA of $2,366.25 / month, and Alaska has a MMMNA of $2,572.50 / month. These figures, which change annually, are set by the federal government, and are based on the Federal Poverty Level. They will be increased again in July of 2019.
If the non-applicant spouse’s income falls under the above minimum amount for one’s state, the applicant spouse can transfer his/her income to his/her spouse, bringing the non-applicant spouse’s income to the minimum level. For instance, a non-applicant spouse in Texas who has a monthly income of $1,600 is able to receive $457.50 / month from the applicant spouse, increasing his/her income to the MMMNA of $2,057.50 / month.
The maximum community spouse income maintenance allowance, as of January 2019, is $3,160.50 / month. This figure will increase again in January 2020). Please note that not all states utilize a minimum and maximum income allowance. Some states use just one figure that falls somewhere between the federally set minimum and maximum figures. For example, as of 2019, New York, Texas, and California all use a standard monthly figure of $3,160.50, and Illinois uses a standard monthly figure of $2,739.
Is it Possible to Transfer More Monthly Income?
In simple terms, yes, it is possible for a Medicaid applicant spouse to transfer monthly income greater than the MMMNA to his/her non-applicant spouse. As mentioned previously, the federal government also sets a maximum community spouse income maintenance allowance, which as of January 2019, is $3,160.50 / month. Again, this figure, unlike the minimum figure, changes in January of each year. It is calculated based on the SSI Federal Benefit Rate (FBR).
To receive income greater than the minimum needs allowance, the non-applicant’s “shelter” costs are taken into account. This includes expenses such as rent, mortgage, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and utilities. If one’s “shelter” costs are high relative to the MMMNA, the community spouse might be entitled to a higher level of income from the applicant spouse.
Monthly Housing Allowance
The Community Spouse Monthly Housing Allowance, also referred to as a Shelter Allowance or Excess Shelter Allowance, includes expenses such as rent, mortgage, property taxes, and homeowners insurance. If the community spouse’s shelter costs are high relative to one’s state’s MMMNA, the community spouse might be entitled to a higher level of income from the applicant spouse.
As of July 1, 2018, the shelter allowance is $617.25 / month for 48 of the 50 states. In Alaska, the shelter allowance is set at $771.75 / month, and it is $709.88 / month in Hawaii. These figures are calculated each July and are based on a percentage of the minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance. Very generalized, it is assumed that a community spouse has sufficient funds in which to pay his/her shelter expenses if his/her income is equivalent to the MMMNA and his/her shelter costs do not exceed the monthly housing allowance. If the shelter costs are greater than the set monthly housing allowance, the community spouse is entitled to a greater MMMNA. For instance, if one’s shelter costs are $150 / month over the shelter allowance, one’s MMMNA will be increased by $150 / month. However, the maximum monthly income in which a community spouse is entitled, regardless of shelter costs, is the maximum MMMNA of $3,160.50 / month.
Standard Utility Allowance
A Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) is also taken into account when determining one’s MMMNA. This is the average utility cost, which may include cooling/heating, electricity, basic phone service, sewage, garbage, and water costs, in the state in which one resides. This figure is set by each state, so it varies based on the state in which one resides. This figure is added on to the monthly housing allowance and can also increase the monthly maintenance needs allowance to which a community spouse is entitled. Please bear in mind, this figure also varies based on if one pays heating and cooling costs separately from their rent and what other utilities one pays.
MMMNA Calculation Example
John and Rose live in Florida, and John has Alzheimer’s disease that has progressed to the stage that he requires 24-hour supervision. Therefore, he has relocated to a Medicaid funded nursing home. John has $2,300 / month in income, and Rose’s monthly income is $750 / month. In Florida, the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance is set at $2,057.50 / month and the Maximum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance is $3,160.50 / month. Since Rose’s income of $750 / month is under the MMMNA of $2,057.50, she is automatically entitled to $1,307.50 / month of John’s income to bring her income level up to the MMMNA of $2,057.50 / month.
In Florida, the Community Spouse Monthly Housing Allowance is set at $617.25 / month and the Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) is $359 / month.
Rose has a mortgage and real estate tax payment of $1,425 / month and homeowners insurance payment of $100 / month, for a total of $1,525.00 / month. Rose pays for heating and cooling of her home, so a SUA of $359 / month is also added to her monthly shelter costs. ($1,425 + $100 + $359 = $1,884 / month in total shelter costs). Since her total monthly shelter cost is over the standard monthly housing allowance of $617.25, this figure is deducted from Rose’s monthly shelter costs. ($1,884 / month – $617.25 / month = $1,266.75 / month in which Rose is entitled in shelter costs).
As mentioned above, Rose is entitled to $1,307.50 / month to bring her income level up to the MMMNA of $2,057.50 and she is entitled to $1,266.75 / month in excess shelter costs. This brings the total to $2,534.75 / month to which Rose might be entitled. ($1,307.50 + $1,266.75 = $2,574.25)
However, with Rose’s own income ($750 / month) and the income in which she might be entitled to from her institutionalized spouse ($1,307.50 to reach the MMMNA and $1,266.75 in excess shelter costs = $2,574.25), her total monthly income would come to $3,324.25 / month. Since this figure is over the maximum monthly maintenance needs allowance of $3,160.50 / month in Florida, she is entitled only to $2,410.50 / month from her institutionalized spouse, bringing her total income to $3,160.50 / month.
Help Determining MMMNA & Qualifying for Medicaid
When only one spouse of a married couple applies for Medicaid, it can be a complicated process. It is highly advised one seek the counsel of a Medicaid expert in this situation. Professional Medicaid planners can offer assistance in maximizing the amount of income a non-applicant spouse receives. Furthermore, they can help the non-applicant preserve a greater amount of the couple’s joint assets while easing the application process and increasing the likelihood the applicant spouse will qualify for Medicaid. Locate a Medicaid planner here.