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What to know if your spouse must go into a care facility

Learning that your spouse must go into a nursing home or other care facility is heartbreaking for the well spouse. Not only is it difficult to come to terms with living apart, but there can be concerns about how to pay for the care a person needs.

People in this upsetting situation may assume that they must spend all their money and sell assets in order to pay for care until they qualify for Medicaid. However, this is not necessarily true. 

Spouse transfers

Yes, there are income eligibility requirements for Health First Colorado, which is Colorado's Medicaid Program. Medicaid is in place to provide health care coverage for low-income adults, but that does not mean you must divest everything before you can qualify for Medicaid.

Spouses who are well would not be able to support themselves if they had to give away or spend their money on their partner's institutionalized care. As such, the program provides special protections for a well spouse.

One protection is that Medicaid does not assign a penalty for transferring assets to a spouse or solely for the well spouse's benefit. 

The program also allows all or a portion of the ill spouse's income to supplement the well spouses' income if it does not exceed $2,058 per month.

Further, the well spouse can retain up to $126,420 in non-exempt resources without compromising the ill spouse's eligibility, as long as the ill spouses does not have more than $2,000 in resources.

Other planning strategies

If you or your spouse still do not meet the financial requirements to qualify for Medicaid coverage or avoid a penalty period, there are other options you might consider.

However, understand that many strategies require advance planning. Setting up trusts, gifting property or adjusting living arrangements can be effective, but they take time. If done properly, though, parties can secure their property and assets and still qualify for Medicaid.

Whether you need answers right away or you have time to work on a long-term Medicaid planning strategy, the fact is that acting sooner rather than later can be crucial. The longer you wait, the fewer options you may have to preserve your assets and protect your legacy.

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