Why are the Coronavirus Stimulus Payments a Concern for Medicaid Applicants and Recipients?
Medicaid has financial criteria in order to be eligible, and remain eligible, for benefits. One’s income and one’s assets are both considered. A stimulus check may increase one’s income or if it is not spent, it might become an asset. Medicaid beneficiaries and new Medicaid applicants are concerned that receiving a stimulus check may disqualify them for Medicaid or prevent them from becoming eligible.
However, the federal government has stated that the stimulus checks will not be counted as income and therefore recipient’s income, from a Medicaid perspective, will not increase and they will not be disqualified from the program. New Medicaid applicants who receive a stimulus check will not have to report it as income and therefore it will not impact their application.
While Medicaid has a variety of eligibility groups, including low income adults and pregnant women, for the purposes of this question, our focus is specifically on long-term care Medicaid for the aged (65+ years old and older) and disabled, including those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
There is regular Medicaid, which for the elderly, is often called Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD) Medicaid, and there is Institutional Medicaid (nursing home Medicaid). To be clear, ABD Medicaid and Institutional Medicaid is part of the state Medicaid plan. Both of these programs are entitlement programs, which means anyone who meets the eligibility criteria is able to receive benefits. There are also Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid Waivers, which are not entitlement programs. Rather, they have enrollment caps and only a limited number of persons are able to participate in the program.
While Aged, Blind and Disabled Medicaid, Institutional Medicaid, and HCBS Medicaid Waivers all have income and asset limits, generally the income limit is lower for ABD Medicaid. Please note that income and asset limits do vary by state and what we include below are general income and asset limits. (State specific eligibility information can be found here).
For ABD Medicaid, the income limit is usually 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or 100% of the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR). As of 2020, this means the income limit is either $1,063 / month or $783 / month. The asset limit is generally $2,000. For Institutional Medicaid and HCBS Medicaid Waivers, the income limit is generally 300% of the FBR. In 2020, this equates to $2,349 / month. The asset limit is generally the same as with ABD Medicaid at $2,000.
With any Medicaid program, a person must have income and assets under the limits when they apply for Medicaid and they must continue to have income and assets under the limits as a Medicaid beneficiary. Having income and / or assets over the limit(s) can result in denial of benefits or termination of Medicaid benefits. Therefore, the receipt of an economic impact payment is concern for many that they will not be eligible for Medicaid or that they may lose their benefits. However, we want to re-emphasize that stimulus checks are not income and therefore do not impact eligibility for Medicaid.