The Arizona Medicaid program that provides long term care benefits for qualified individuals known as the Arizona Long Term Care System commonly known as ALTCS provides special protections for the spouses of Medicaid applicants to make sure the healthy spouse (Known as the “community spouse”) has a means of support while the spouse in need of care (known as the Institutionalized   spouse) is receiving long-term care benefits.

The so-called “spousal protections” work this way: if the ALTCS applicant is married, the countable assets of both the “community spouse” and the “institutionalized spouse” are totaled as of the date of “institutionalization,” The date of “institutionalization” is defined as the day on which the ill spouse enters either a hospital or a long-term care facility in which he or she then stays for at least 30 days. (This is often called the “snapshot” date because ALTCS takes a picture of the couple’s assets as of this date.)

In order to be financially eligible for ALTCS benefits, the institutionalized spouse may have no more than $2,000 in assets.  However, in general, the community spouse may keep one-half of the couple’s total “countable” assets up to a maximum of $115,920 in 2013.  This is called the “community spouse resource allowance”. The least that Arizona will allow a community spouse to retain is $23,184 in 2013.

Example: If a couple has $100,000 in countable assets on the date the applicant enters a nursing home, he or she will be eligible for ALTCS once the couple’s assets have been reduced to a combined figure of $52,000 — $2,000 for the applicant and $50,000 for the community spouse.

In Arizona, the calculation of the allowable income of the community spouse is more complex. For instance, what if most of the couple’s income is in the name of the institutionalized spouse and the community spouse’s income is not enough to live on? In such cases, the community spouse is entitled to some or all of the monthly income of the institutionalized spouse. How much the community spouse is entitled to keep depends on what ALTCS determines to be a minimum income level for the community spouse.

Although the ALTCS process may sound difficult, the caring professionals at Dana Law Firm are here to help families navigate the ALTCS application process. In fact, our firm offers free Elder Law initial consultation s in one of our Arizona office locations. We stand ready to assist and will do our best to develop the best options for you to obtain your elder care planning goals and objectives.

written by Scottsdale Elder Law Attorney Robin Cochran

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