MassHealth Eligibility: Countable Assets
To qualify for MassHealth Standard for long-term care benefits, seniors must meet strict
financial eligibility requirements, including both a limit on countable assets as well as income. If
they’re married and live with their spouse, both of their incomes and assets count in deciding if
they can get MassHealth.
The basic rule for MassHealth long-term care eligibility is that if an applicant applies, whether
single or married, they can have only $2,000 in countable assets in their name. If their spouse
plans to continue living in the community, the spouse is allowed to keep approximately
$148,620 in their name. (2023 figures)
Countable assets include but aren’t limited to:
Certificates of deposit
Stocks and bonds
Value of real property, except your home, if it meets eligibility requirements
Individual retirement accounts, Keogh plans
Cash surrender value of life insurance
Vehicles – One vehicle per household is non-countable if it’s for the use of the individual
living in the community. The equity value of all other vehicles is a countable asset.
Revocable trusts (regulations regarding trusts are complex)
Retroactive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Retirement, Survivors and Disability
Insurance (RSDI). Benefit payments beginning in the 8th month after receipt. (Non-
countable in the month of receipt and for the next six months if deposited in a
separately identifiable account.)
For home exemption, the Medicaid applicant must live in the home or have intent to return,
and in 2023, their home equity interest must not be more than $1,033,000. Equity interest is
the value of the home in which the applicant owns. The home is also exempt, regardless of
where the applicant resides or their home equity interest if a non-applicant spouse resides
MassHealth Eligibility: Income Limits
In 2023, the monthly income limits for seniors seeking these MassHealth benefits is $1,215 for
an individual, $1,643 for a couple (both spouses applying), and $72.80 for residents of long-
term care facilities (this is the personal needs allowance).
Income limits depend on the program being applied for, but countable income includes:
Wages, salary, tips, commissions (before deductions)
Self-employment income (minus expenses)
Social Security benefits
Railroad retirement benefits
Pensions and annuities
Federal veterans’ benefits (minus allowed exclusions)
Interest and dividends
Rental income (minus expenses)
Spending Down Assets
If someone applies to MassHealth with too much value in their countable assets, they’ll be
required to spend down those assets to the applicable limit. The assets can be spent on the
applicant’s or spouse’s needs, including medical care, in-home supports like personal care and
cleaning, home repairs, care repairs, regular monthly bills, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and
mobility aids. They can also pay bills/debts like credit cards, mortgage payments, taxes, and car
payments even if those costs are owed by their spouse. Assets can also be used to pay for burial
and funeral expenses in advance.
If a person doesn’t spend down according to MassHealth rules, they could be disqualified for
MassHealth or have a penalty phase where their coverage would start at some future date.
It’s important to keep in mind the five-year look-back period. When someone applies for
MassHealth for long-term care, MassHealth has the right to examine an applicant’s bank and
financial records for up to five years immediately prior to the date of application.
Typically, if they discover a transfer of assets during this period of $1,000 or more, whether to a
trust or to another person, they’ll impose a disqualification period on the applicant’s eligibility
(a length of time the applicant won’t be eligible for MassHealth). The length of the
disqualification period will depend on the amount of the gift/transfer. Penalties can be “cured”
by the return of the gift to the applicant.
So, let’s say you gave your granddaughter $5,000 toward her college education two years ago
and gave your son $8,000 to help with his home repairs four years ago. If you’re now applying
for MassHealth for long-term care, you would be disqualified from getting MassHealth for a
period of time because of those gifts. If your granddaughter and son repay you the money you
gifted them, that’s called a “cure.” Once you’ve spent down those countable assets according
to MassHealth guidelines, you could then become eligible for MassHealth if all other eligibility
requirements are met.
Contributor: Heritage Law Firm 2023-https://maheritagelawcenter.com/