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The state where Medicare beneficiaries reside impacts the care they receive and how that care is paid for. This page explains several options that can help low- and moderate-income beneficiaries pay for health and long-term care services.
Many Medicare beneficiaries who struggle to afford the cost of Medicare coverage are eligible for Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs). These programs always pay the Medicare Part B premium and – in some cases – cover Part A premiums, as well as Medicare cost sharing.
Delaware beneficiaries can access three MSPs:
MSP asset limit: There is no MSP asset limit in Delaware.
QI enrollees are not allowed to receive any other Medicaid benefits, but some QMB and SLMB enrollees also receive full Medicaid benefits or have a Medicaid spend-down.
Original Medicare doesn’t cover some important services like vision and dental benefits. Medicare can also leave its beneficiaries with large cost sharing obligations (e.g. deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance). Some beneficiaries, namely those who meet income criteria for Medicaid, may qualify for cost sharing assistance if they’re enrolled in Medicaid benefits for the aged, blind and disabled (Medicaid ABD).
Delaware’s Medicaid program does not cover dental benefits for adults. But it will cover eyeglasses when they’re medically necessary due to a health condition. (Although Medicaid wouldn’t cover glasses needed because of vision issues alone.) Medicaid programs sometimes also pay for medical supplies that Medicare doesn’t cover.
Due to similar income limits, Medicaid ABD recipients often also receive help with Medicare premiums through an MSP.
Income eligibility: The income limit is $914 a month if single and $1,371 a month if married.
Asset limits: The asset limit is $2,000 if single and $3,000 if married.
Medicare beneficiaries who also have Medicaid, an MSP, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will receive Extra Help. This program lowers Medicare Part D prescription drug costs. When beneficiaries apply for this program themselves, the income limit is $1,843 a month for singles and $2,485 a month for couples. The asset limit is $16,660 for individuals and $33,240 for spouses.
Lower-income Delaware beneficiaries who have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) can qualify for help with the cost of ESRD-related medications through the Delaware Chronic Renal Disease Program. The program can also cover Part D premiums, and transportation to dialysis.
While many beneficiaries will need long-term care at some point, those services are generally not covered by Medicare. Medicaid can fill this gap, but many find it difficult to navigate that program’s complex eligibility rules.
Because Delaware does not have a Medicaid spend-down, applicants with incomes above this limit are not able to pay the income they have toward long-term care, and have Medicaid pay the rest. Delaware is called an “income cap state” because it imposes this hard limit on Medicaid eligibility. Fortunately, applicants whose incomes are greater than this income cap are allowed to deposit income into a Miller Trust to qualify for Medicaid long-term care benefits.
Delaware’s Medicaid long-term care benefit is called the Diamond State Health Plan – Plus (DSHP-Plus). This program is offered through private insurers that combine LTSS and medical services with prescription drug coverage. DSHP-Plus covers Medicaid enrollees and dual eligibles who have Medicare and Medicaid.
Some seniors have medical or living situations that make nursing home care a good choice. Medicaid covers these services for an unlimited number of enrollees in each state.
Income limits: The income limit for Medicaid nursing home coverage in Delaware is $2,285 a month if single and $4,570 a month if married (and both spouses are applying).
However, Medicaid nursing home enrollees are not allowed to keep most of this income. Instead, enrollees must pay all but a small portion of it to their nursing home. They can keep a small personal needs allowance of $50 each month and money to pay for health insurance premiums, such as Medicare Part B and Medigap.
Assets limits: The asset limit is $2,000 if single and $3,000 if married (and both spouses are receiving nursing home care). Some assets are protected – meaning they are not counted against the limit. Examples of excluded assets include a single car, home furnishings, family heirlooms, and prepaid burial arrangements.
If only one spouse has Medicaid, federal rules allow the other spouse to keep up to $148,620.
Here is more information about applying for Medicaid nursing home coverage in Delaware.
Medicaid also covers community-based long-term care services, which are provided to enrollees in their homes or another “community” location. Medicaid programs offering this type of care are called Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers, because enrollees continue living in the community (rather than entering a nursing home). HCBS waivers have waiting lists in many states.
Income limits: The income limit is $2,285 a month if single and $4,570 a month if married (and both spouses need care). If only one spouse needs nursing home care, the income limit for single applicants is used—and usually only the applicant’s income is counted.
Asset limits: The asset limit is $2,000 if single and $3,000 if both spouses are applying. If only one spouse has Medicaid, the other spouse can keep up to $148,620.
Delaware does not have a Medicaid spend-down, which means applicants whose income is above the limit for ABD Medicaid usually don’t have a way to qualify for those benefits.
However, an individual in this situation who needs Medicaid LTSS benefits can still qualify for that coverage by depositing income into a Qualified Income Trust, which is also called a “Miller Trust.”
Some states require Medicaid LTSS applicants to have monthly incomes below the average cost of nursing home care in order to apply for Medicaid using a Miller Trust, but Delaware doesn’t require applicants who use Miller Trusts to have a certain income.
Delaware residents can use a Miller Trust to become eligible for Medicaid LTSS coverage, but not for regular ABD Medicaid benefits.
Rules to protect against spousal impoverishment allow the “community spouse”—the one who is not receiving Medicaid LTSS benefits—to keep a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA) from their Medicaid spouse’s monthly income.
These rules apply only to spouses who don’t receive any Medicaid benefits, and are particularly helpful when one spouse is in a nursing home—and would otherwise pay nearly all their income toward their care.
In Delaware in 2022, community spouses are allowed to keep:
States are required by federal law to restrict eligibility for nursing home Medicaid and HCBS to applicants with a home equity interest below a certain amount. States set this home equity limit by choosing between a federal minimum of $688,000 and maximum of $1,033,000 in 2023.
Delaware uses the most restrictive home equity limit allowed under federal law, so applicants for Medicaid LTSS must have more than $688,000 in home equity.
To address the very high cost of long-term care, Medicare beneficiaries may look to give assets away or transfer them in hopes of an in-need family member qualifying for Medicaid LTSS benefits. To discourage this, federal law requires states to have a penalty period for those seeking Medicaid nursing home coverage who give away or transfer assets for less than their value. States can also have a penalty period for HCBS.
Delaware has penalty periods for both nursing home care and HCBS. This penalty period is based on a 5-year long lookback period where asset transfers and gifts are prohibited. Individuals who transfer or give away assets may become ineligible for LTSS programs.
To calculate the penalty, an eligibility worker divides the value of what was given away or transferred below its market value during the lookback period by the monthly cost of nursing home care (which is $10,795 in Delaware in 2023).
This website has the regulations that govern Delaware’s lookback period.
State Medicaid agencies must attempt to recover their payments for long-term care related costs received beginning at age 55. States also have the option of recovering the cost of all other Medicaid benefits. This is called estate recovery.
Delaware only pursues estate recovery when Medicaid covers nursing home care or HCBS for an enrollee beginning at the age of 55. However, if the state does pursue an estate recovery, it will attempt to recover the cost of all Medicaid-covered services.
The state will not attempt an estate recovery if a nursing home or HCBS recipient is survived by their spouse or a child who is under 21, blind or disabled.
Delaware Medicare Assistance Bureau (DMAB)
Free Medicare counseling is available by contacting the Delaware Medicare Assistance Bureau (DMAB) at 1-800-336-9500. This is Delaware’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). This website has more information about the SHIP in Delaware.
SHIPs offer assistance like helping beneficiaries with initial Medicare enrollment, changing plans, and evaluating Medigap options. They may also be able to offer referrals to local agencies for services like home care and long-term care.
Elder Law Attorneys
Elder law attorneys can help you plan for long-term care needs. Find an elder attorney in your area with the search feature on the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) website.
Delaware Aging and Disability Resource Centers
Medicare beneficiaries in Delaware can also receive assistance from one of the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). ADRCs help seniors and people with disabilities understand LTSS benefits and access services to help with aging or living with a disability.
You can reach one of the Delaware ADRCs by calling 1-800-223-9074. This website lists the regional ADRC offices in Delaware.