When a single individual applies for Medi-Cal Long-Term Care, he or she is only allowed to keep $2,000 in countable assets. But for a married couple, when only one spouse needs Long-Term Medi-Cal, and the other will remain in the community, a separate limit comes into play. That separate limit is known as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA).
For 2017, the CSRA is $120,900. The CSRA is in addition to the $2,000 that the spouse seeking Medi-Cal can keep. Here’s an overview of CSRA.
How Medi-Cal Counts to $120,900
In general, Medi-Cal uses the same definitions of countable and exempt property for the CSRA as it uses for the $2,000 limit. However, there are some exceptions:
- For an applicant who is single, Medi-Cal exempts wedding and engagement rings, heirlooms, and any other item of jewelry with a net market value of $100 or less. But when one spouse will remain in the community, there is no limit on exempt jewelry.
- For a single applicant, the balance in an IRA is exempt if the applicant is taking his or her minimum required distributions. But for an IRA in the name of the community spouse, the IRA is always exempt, regardless of distributions.
The CSRA Can Be Increased
In addition to allowing the community spouse to keep countable assets up to the CSRA limit, Medi-Cal also lets the community spouse keep a set amount of income each month. That monthly amount has the unwieldy name of “minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance” (MMMNA).
For 2017, the MMMNA is equal to $3,023. If the community spouse has income in his or her own name, then he or she can keep all that income, regardless of amount. If the community spouse has no income, or has an income in his or her name that is less than the MMMNA, then he or she can receive an allocation of income (if any) from the Medi-Cal spouse.
However, if the community spouse’s income plus an allocation from the Medi-Cal spouse is still less than the MMMNA, then they can request a Fair Hearing. At a Fair Hearing, the spouses can ask for the CSRA to be increased so that the community spouse can keep more income-generating assets, thereby boosting his or her monthly income.
You Need Help When Applying for Long-Term Medi-Cal
As should be obvious from this post and the many others I’ve written before, the rules around Medi-Cal eligibility are complicated. Unfortunately, that means it’s easy to make mistakes when applying for Medi-Cal. So, if you or your spouse need to apply for Medi-Cal Long-Term Care, you should work with an experienced Long-Term Medi-Cal attorney to help walk you through that process.