A Spouse’s Right to Protection Against Poverty
Updated: Oct 6
It was 30 years ago when Congress enacted safeguards to protect the savings of married couples who use Medicaid. These protections prevent husbands and wives from bankrupting themselves trying to fund care for their loved ones. They originally required states to allow spouses of nursing home residents to maintain a certain amount of both income and assets; in 2014, this protection was extended to married couples whether the care is provided in an institution or at home.
These protections are set to expire in September unless new legislation is passed. If these protections are not extended, some married couples would be at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage unless they enter a nursing home.
Forcibly separating families, and forcing individuals to institutionalize their spouses, is a tough policy. Congress should therefore extend these protections. Fortunately, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) would make these protections permanent.
“When you’re caring for a loved one round-the-clock and serving as your spouse’s support system, you’ve probably already worried about how to make ends meet. You shouldn’t have to worry about your savings completely drying up,” Smith said. “Our bill would make spousal impoverishment protections permanent so families can stay together and get the care they need, surrounded by the people they love.”
A similar bill, H.R.1343, was introduced to the House in February by two Republicans, Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Fred Upton (R-MI).
In the meanwhile, H.R.3253, which would extend the applicability of Medicaid eligibility criteria that protect against spousal impoverishment for recipients of home- and community-based services, passed in the House and is now in the Senate.
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