CMS: Residents' spouses get allowance bump next year

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A spouse of a Medicaid recipient in a nursing home may keep as much as $104,400 in 2008, according to new guidelines released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. This is up from $101,640 in assets the "community spouse" may keep without risking the Medicaid eligibility of his or her spouse residing in long-term care.

While some states opt to set a lower maximum, the "community spouse resource allowance" is the most that any state may allow a community spouse to retain without a hearing or a court order, according to legal experts. Spouse also are allowed to keep the first $20,880 in 2008 (up from $20,328), even if this is more than half of the couple's assets, according to CMS.

The community spouse allowance guidelines were established under the Deficit Reduction Act to ensure that Medicaid residents' spouses have the minimum support they need to continue to live in the community. Each year the figures are adjusted to reflect inflation.