Massachusetts Medicaid — called MassHealth — operates the Frail Elder Waiver (FEW) for residents who require nursing home level care. It allows them to receive health care and ongoing support services in their homes or community living residences instead of in nursing homes. Participants can age in their homes or the homes of family members.
The Frail Elderly Waiver is operated by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA).
Eligibility for this waiver depends on the age, location, functional ability, and financial status of the applicants.
Candidates must be a minimum of 60 years of age. However, those between the ages of 60 and 64 must be physically disabled. All applicants must require the level of care provided in nursing homes, yet they should be willing to receive the care at home. The cost to provide that care cannot exceed what it would cost in a nursing home.
To be eligible for the HCBS waiver, persons must be financially qualified for MassHealth Medicaid. The 2023 income limit is $2,742 per month for an individual. The income of married couples with both spouses as applicants is considered separately. This means each spouse is allowed up to $2,742 a month in income. Unlike other states, when only one spouse of a married couple is an applicant, the non-applicant spouse is able to retain all of their monthly income.
Massachusetts does offer an alternative method to qualify if one is over the income limit. Individuals who have very high medical expenses can qualify through the Medically Needy Pathway for MassHealth. As of 2023, individuals should not have more than approximately $522 in monthly income after medical expense deductions. And couples are limited to approximately $650 after subtracting medical expenses.
MassHealth also considers one’s countable assets, which includes cash, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, and life insurance policies with a face value over $1,500. The limits for an individual and a married couple (both spouses applying for services) are $2,000 and $4,000, respectively. When only one spouse of a married couple is applying, the asset limit for the other spouse is $148,620 (as of 2023). Their home, if owner-occupied, is considered exempt up to an equity value of $1,033,000 in 2023. There are also other exempt assets, such as a vehicle, funeral trusts, and personal valuables.
As with other state Medicaid programs, the applicant’s five-year financial history is considered to prevent the applicant from giving away his / her money to qualify. (This is called the Medicaid Look-Back Period.) Violating the Medicaid look-back rule can be cause for a period of Medicaid ineligibility.
A professional who is familiar with state Medicaid rules can determine the exact limits and the best structures for resources to ensure qualification, while also preserving some of the couple’s net worth for the healthier spouse. Read more about planning services for MassHealth eligibility.
It is the goal of this program to help seniors age in place outside of a nursing home and, as such, the benefits are selected to aid in independent living. Beneficiaries and their caregivers can receive any of the following services:
Applicants can come from any part of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, while individuals may meet all the requirements to qualify, they may have to wait to receive waiver services. This is because Medicaid waivers are not entitlement programs, and there are a limited number of enrollment slots.
To apply for the Frail Elder Waiver, interested Massachusetts residents should contact the MassOptions call center at 800-243-4636, or visit massoptions.org to get referred to their loal Aging Service Access Point (ASAP).
Additional information on the Frail Elder Waiver can be found here.