The expense of nursing home care – which ranges from $5,000 to $8,000 a month or more – can rapidly deplete the lifetime savings of elderly couples. In 1998, Congress enacted provisions to prevent what has come to be called “spousal impoverishment”, leaving the spouse who is still living at home in the community with little or no income or resource. These provisions help ensure that this situation will not occur and that the community spouses are able to live out their lives with independence and dignity.
Under the Medicaid spousal impoverishment provisions, a certain amount of the couple’s combined resources is protected for the spouse living in the community. Depending on how much of his or her income the community spouse actually has, a certain amount of income belonging to the spouse in the institution can also be set aside for the community spouse’s use.