MAY 9, 1994 VOLUME 1, NUMBER 24
The 1994-1995 figure for the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (or MMMNA) has been announced. Beginning July 1, 1994, community spouses of ALTCS patients will be entitled to retain sufficient income to guarantee at least $1,230 in total monthly income.
The new figure represents an increase of $51 per month over the previous level. Prior to the increase, a community spouse was permitted to retain $1179 of the total community income each month.
In addition to the MMMNA, the community spouse may be entitled to an excess shelter allowance of up to $369 per month. This also reflects an increase, from a maximum of $354 in fiscal year 1993-1994. In addition, the community spouse may retain excess income for extraordinary or exceptional costs, with a new cap on the total amount retained of $1817.
While the community spouse is permitted to retain as much of the institutionalized spouse’s income as necessary to reach the monthly maintenance needs allowance (between $1230 and $1817), the institutionalized spouse is also permitted to retain a personal needs allowance. In fact, the personal needs allowance is available to every institutionalized ALTCS patient. This allowance, which is also fixed by federal law, is set at 15% of the maximum monthly SSI benefit, which translates to $66.90 for calendar year 1994.
Numbers, Numbers …
As long as we’re talking about numbers, let’s review a few other important ones.
Of course, the most infamous of all long-term care numbers is the income eligibility limit. If an applicant for ALTCS benefit receives more than $1338 per month in income from all sources, he will simply not be eligible.
Two important variations on this hard-and-fast rule need mentioning. If the applicant is married, and “his” income exceeds $1338 per month but the total community income does not exceed $2676, he will still be eligible. And even if his (or their) income is too high, it may be possible to establish a “Miller”-type trust to permit eligibility.
The income eligibilty number changes with each calendar year. The 1993 number was $1304.
The Community Spouse Resource Allowance is the value of available assets the community spouse is allowed to retain and still have the institutionalized spouse obtain ALTCS benefits. This figure is one-half the value of available community resources held at the time of admission to the hospital or nursing home, with an upper and lower limit.
No matter how little a couple is worth, the community spouse is permitted to retain at least the first $14,532. And wealthier couples are not permitted to retain more than $72,660 as the community spouse’s “half.” This area is particularly complex, and care must be taken not to overlook techniques (many of them quite simple) for maximizing the community spouse’s “share.”
Average Cost of Care
The primary significance of this figure is in determining the penalty period suffered by ALTCS applicants who have made gifts during the previous three years. The estimate of typical nursing home care costs is divided into the total amount of gifts to determine the number of months of ineligibility.
Currently, the figure for Pima and Maricopa counties is $2406.30; for all other Arizona counties it is $2321.10. This despite the fact that long-term care actually costs as much as $3500 per month.