Stimulus Checks for Nursing Home Residents: What You Need to Know
Contributed By Caroline Currier
As part of the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” or the “CARES Act,” many American families will be receiving a stimulus check in the coming weeks. While this extra income has been a welcomed support to most, this influx of cash has raised concerns for residents in long-term care facilities who receive benefits from Medicaid, a needs-based government healthcare program.
Medicaid recipients are subject to strict financial requirements. In most states Medicaid recipients are restricted to owning no more than $2,000 worth of cash resources at all times, and each month, Medicaid recipients are required to pay the full amount of their monthly income, less certain deductions, to the facility in which they reside. Accordingly, many Americans grew concerned that their stimulus check would either jeopardize their Medicaid eligibility, costing them thousands, or that they would be forced to pay the full amount of their stimulus check right back as part of their monthly co-pay.
The commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) has recently provided much-needed clarity on this subject, announcing that the SSA will not consider stimulus payments as income for Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) recipients, nor will their stimulus payment be counted against their “resource total” until 12 months after its receipt. It is important to note that, although Medicaid programs are managed and regulated on a state by state basis, a state Medicaid program cannot impose eligibility requirements that are stricter than SSI requirements. Therefore, the payments should not affect Medicaid eligibility in any state.
According to this guidance, Medicaid recipients in long-term care facilities may spend their stimulus payment on the things that are most important to them, as long as they spend the funds within 12 months of receipt. Since Medicaid recipients in most states receive only $40.00 to $50.00 each month to purchase personal care products, haircuts, clothes and other personal items, many will find their stimulus check to be a great blessing. Residents should be encouraged to spend this money on items that they need for their health, wellness or entertainment. Some examples might include personal care products, personal laptops or tablets to communicate with friends or family members and new furniture or clothing.
Our law firm is providing a list of items that long-term care residents regularly need to all families who request one, free of charge. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive a copy of this list or learn more about the stimulus package and how it might affect Medicaid recipients.