New MassHealth Rules Raise Stress on Independent Living

As baby boomers age, many understandably prefer to remain in their own homes for as long as possible rather than residing in nursing homes. Home and community-based services can help many achieve this goal. Unfortunately, recent changes in MassHealth regulations may make it more difficult for some elders to live independently.

Under new rules, MassHealth will now consider the assets of the applicant’s spouse in determining eligibility for Home and Community Based Services Waiver Programs. Under prior rules, MassHealth would consider only the applicant’s assets and income in determining eligibility.

A spouse is now allowed a maximum of $120,900 (as of 2017) in countable assets. One strategy to qualify for services would be for the applicant’s spouse to use assets that exceed the maximum allowable limit to purchase an immediate, irrevocable annuity. Because the spouse’s income is not counted in determining the applicant’s eligibility, it will not matter that the spouse’s income may greatly increase as a result of the monthly annuity payments.

MassHealth has made this change retroactive to all Home and Community Based Services Waiver applications dating back to January 1, 2014. If you receive a notice from MassHealth regarding eligibility, it is more important than ever that you contact an elder law attorney so he or she can assist you with maintaining your spouse’s eligibility.

Michael Stankavish is a lawyer and owner of North Shore Elder Law and Estate Planning. He can be reached through