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Financial help for Idaho Medicare enrollees

Idaho Medicaid estate recovery only applies to enrollees who received long-term care services, but it also applies to their spouses' estates

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As a Medicare beneficiary, where you live – meaning your state of residence – can have a significant impact on the care that you receive and how you pay for that care during your “golden years.” This page explains how Idaho’s regulations and policies are likely to affect your bottom line.

Does Idaho help with my Medicare premiums?

Many Medicare beneficiaries who struggle to afford the cost of Medicare coverage are eligible for help through a Medicare Savings Program (MSP). In Washington, D.C., this program pays for Medicare Part B premiums, Medicare Part A and B cost-sharing, and – in some cases – Part A premiums.

  • Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB): The income limit is $1,063 a month if single or $1,437 a month if married. QMB pays for Part A and B cost sharing, Part B premiums, and – if a beneficiary owes them – it also pays their Part A premiums.
  • Specified Low-income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB): The income limit is from QMB levels up to $1,276 a month if single or $1,724 a month if married. SLMB pays for Part B premiums.
  • Qualifying Individuals (QI): The income limit is from SLMB levels up to $1,436 a month if single or $1,940 a month if married. QI pays for Part B premiums.
  • Qualified Disabled Working Individuals (QDWI): The income limit is $2,126 a month for applicants who live alone. QDWI pays the Part A premiums (but not Part B premiums) owed by certain disabled beneficiaries who have returned to work.

MSP asset limits: Idaho uses the federal asset limits for QMB, SLMB and QI – which are $7,860 if single and $11,800 if married. The asset limit for QDWI is $4,000 if single and $6,000 if living with others

Who’s eligible for Medicaid for the aged, blind and disabled in Idaho?

Medicare covers a great number services – including hospitalization, physician services, and prescription drugs – but Original Medicare doesn’t cover important services like vision and dental benefits. Medicare can also leave its beneficiaries with large out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance). Applicants can receive coverage for Medicare cost sharing and other Medicaid-covered services if they’re enrolled in Medicaid for the aged, blind and disabled (ABD).

Idaho’s Medicaid ABD program covers comprehensive dental care for adults. However, Idaho Medicaid does not pay for routine vision care. Medicaid ABD does cover services necessary to monitor and treat health conditions that can damage the eye (e.g., such as diabetes).

Medicaid ABD is called Aid for the Aged, Blind and Disabled in Idaho.

Income eligibility: The income limit is $836 a month if single and $1,195 a month if married.

Asset limits: The asset limit is $2,000 if single and $3,000 if married.

Federal assistance with prescription drug costs in Idaho

Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in Medicaid, an MSP, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) also receive Extra Help with prescription drug expenses. Enrollees who don’t receive this benefit automatically can apply for it with the Social Security Administration (SSA). In that case, the income limit is $1,615 a month for singles and $2,175 a month for spouses, and the asset limit is $14,610 for individuals and $29,160 for spouses.

How does Idaho regulate long-term services and supports (LTSS)?

Medicare beneficiaries increasingly rely on long-term services and supports (LTSS) – or long-term care – which is mostly not covered by Medicare. In fact, 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who lived at home received some assistance with LTSS in 2015, and even more enrollees are expected to need these services as the population ages. Medicaid fills the gap in Medicare coverage for long-term care, but its complex eligibility rules can make qualifying for benefits difficult. What’s more – eligibility rules vary significantly from state to state.

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Idaho uses a “special income limit” to determine eligibility for Medicaid nursing home benefits and Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). This limit is 300 percent of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment amount – or $2,349 a month.

Medicaid nursing home coverage

Income limits: The income limit is $2,369 a month if single and $4,738 a month if married (and both spouses are applying).

When only one spouse needs Medicaid, the applicant for single applicants is used – and often only the applying spouse’s income is counted.

Although the income limit is $2,369 a month (if single), nursing home enrollees can’t keep all of their income up to this limit. Instead, they have to pay all but a small portion of it toward their care, although they can keep a small personal needs allowance (of $40 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 applying).

Spousal impoverishment rules allow spouses who don’t have Medicaid to keep up to $128,640.

Certain assets are never counted, including many household effects, family heirlooms, certain prepaid burial arrangements, and one car.

Home and Community Based Waiver (HCBS) services

Every state’s Medicaid program covers community-based long-term care services. Medicaid programs can offer these services are called Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers, and can offer this care in an enrollee’s home, adult day care center or another community setting. Enrollees don’t have to enter a nursing home to receive these services. In Idaho, HCBS enrollees must show that they can live safely in their home or assisted living facility.

HCBS waiver programs in Idaho include the:

  • Aging and Disabled (A&D) Wavier
  • Developmentally Disabled (DD) Waiver

Some HCBS waiver programs in Idaho have waiting lists. New applicants aren’t allowed once the enrollment cap is reached.

Income limits: The income limit is $2,369 a month if single and $4,738 a month if married (and both spouses are applying).

Asset limits: The asset limit is $2,000 if single and $3,000 if married (and both spouses are applying). Spousal impoverishment rules allow spouses who aren’t applying to keep up to $128,640.

Qualifying for Medicaid LTSS with income above the eligibility limit in Idaho 

In Idaho, applicants normally are only eligible for nursing home care or HCBS if their income is less than $2,369 a month (if single). However, an applicant who has a higher income can qualify for long-term care benefits by depositing income into a Qualified Income Trust, which is also called a “Miller Trust.”

Nursing home enrollees must pay nearly all of this income toward their care from the Miller Trust. However, HCBS recipients can keep either $750 or $1,350 as a personal needs allowance to pay for certain health and living expenses (as of 2018).

Spousal impoverishment protections in Idaho

Eligibility rules for Medicaid LTSS programs differ from other Medicaid benefits when only one spouse is applying. When this occurs, only the applying spouse’s income is counted. With other Medicaid benefits, income received by both spouses is counted – regardless of who is applying.

Spousal impoverishment rules allow spouses of Medicaid LTSS recipients to keep a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA) from their Medicaid spouse’s monthly income.

In Idaho in 2020, these spousal impoverishment rules allow community spouses to keep:

Permitted home value in Idaho

Federal law requires states to restrict eligibility for Medicaid nursing home and HCBS to applicants with a home equity interest below a certain dollar amount. In 2020, states set these home equity levels based on a federal minimum home equity of $595,000 and a maximum of $893,000.

Idaho has chosen the highest limit on home equity – meaning that applicants for Medicaid nursing home benefits or HCBS can’t have a home equity interest greater than $893,000.

Penalties for transferring assets in Idaho

Because long-term care is expensive, individuals can have an incentive to give away or transfer assets to others so they can become eligible for Medicaid LTSS benefits. To curb this incentive, federal law requires states to have a penalty period for Medicaid LTSS applicants who give away or transfer assets for less than their value. States can also have an asset transfer penalty for HCBS. Medicaid will not pay for LTSS during this penalty period.

Idaho has chosen to have an asset transfer penalty for nursing home care and HCBS. This penalty is based on a 5-year lookback period during which time asset transfers and gifts are prohibited. The penalty is calculated by dividing the value of what was transferred or given away during the lookback by the cost of private pay nursing home care (and this was $8,458 in 2020).

Estate recovery in Idaho

State Medicaid agencies have to attempt to recover what they paid for long-term care related benefits enrollees receive while 55 or older. The law also allows states to also recover the cost of all other Medicaid benefits. This is called estate recovery.

Idaho has chosen to only to pursue estate recovery against enrollees who receive long-term care beginning at age 55. (The state also recovers from a small number of younger enrollees who were permanently institutionalized.)

The state will not recover from enrollees who are survived by their spouse or a child who is under 21, blind, or disabled.

Idaho has an unusually aggressive estate recovery program. Estate recovery rules in every state allow costs to be recovered from recipients of Medicaid services, but Idaho also allows estate recoveries from spouses of Medicaid enrollees – even if the spouse didn’t receive Medicaid.

Congress exempted Medicare premiums and cost sharing from Medicaid estate recovery starting with benefits paid after December 31, 2009, but Medicaid may try to recover benefits paid through that date.

Where can Medicare beneficiaries get help in Idaho?

State Health Insurance Benefit Advisors (SHIBA)

You can receive free Medicare counseling through Idaho’s State Health Insurance Benefit Advisors (SHIBA) program by calling 800-247-4422. SHIBA is Idaho’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

SHIPs can help beneficiaries enroll in Medicare, compare and change Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, and answer questions about state Medigap protections. SHIP counselors may also be able to offer referrals to local agencies for services like home care and long-term care. This website has more information about the services offered by SHIBA.

Elder Law Attorneys

Elder law attorneys can help individuals plan for Medicaid long-term care benefits. You can use the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) to search for an elder attorney in your area.

Area Agencies on Aging / Aging and Disability Resource Centers in Idaho

You can also receive counseling and assistance about services that help with aging or living with a disability by contacting one of Idaho’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). You can call 800-926-2588 to be connected with an ADRC in Idaho or read more about Idaho ADRC services on this website.

Where can I apply for Medicaid in Idaho?

Medicaid is administered by the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) in Idaho. You can use this website to apply for Medicaid ABD or an MSP in Idaho. The customer service phone number for Medicaid is 877-456-1233.

Josh Schultz has a strong background in Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. He coordinated a Medicare technical assistance contract at the Medicare Rights Center in New York City, and represented clients in extensive Medicare claims and appeals. In addition to advocacy work, Josh helped implement health insurance exchanges at the technology firm hCentive. He has also held consulting roles, including at Sachs Policy Group, where he worked on Medicare and Medicaid related client projects.

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