Minnesota Medicaid Elderly Waiver (EW) Program: Qualifications and Services

What is a Medicaid Waiver?
For persons with limited financial resources, Medicaid pays for nursing home care. For those who wish to live at home or in assisted living, sometimes Medicaid will pay for care in those locations if it can be obtained at a lower cost than in a nursing home. It does this through state-specific"Medicaid Waivers," which are also called Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waivers or Waiver Funded Services.

Waiver Description

 "Adult children of aging parents can be paid as caregivers"

Minnesota Medicaid’s Elderly Waiver pays for home and community-based services for people aged 65 years or older who require the level of medical care provided in a nursing home but choose to reside in the community.

Under the Elderly Waiver, participants have the option of letting the state manage their care or they can self-direct their care through Consumer Directed Community Supports. Under the Medicaid Cash and Counseling model, participants are given the flexibility to hire their own personal care providers including family members. For example, the adult children of aging parents can be paid as caregivers. A fiscal intermediary is used to manage payroll services.

Personal care is, by no means, the only service provided under this program. Other major benefits include assistance in making home modifications to better enable the participant to live independently and safely. Also, included is support for adult day care, which can enable primary caregivers to work during week days. 

Minnesota Medicaid is sometimes referred to as Medical Assistance MA or referred to incorrectly as MinnesotaCare. MinnesotaCare is a related, slightly more inclusive program.  


Eligibility Guidelines

This waiver has eligibility criteria related to the age, finances and the health of the applicant. Applicants must be at least 65 years of age and have significant health challenges so that they require aid to complete their daily personal tasks. This is equivalent to the level of care provided in nursing homes.

2017 Income and Asset Limits

Minnesota requires that the elderly residents first qualify for Medical Assistance to access the benefits associated with this waiver. Waiver applicants have a monthly income limit of $2,205. Couples where only one spouse needs care can disregard the income of the other spouse. The asset limits for a single applicant is $3,000, excluding the value of their home, primary vehicle, irrevocable funeral trusts. Couples can have up to $6,000 in savings or other near-cash resources.

Options for Persons Exceeding the Limits

Persons over these financial limits can apply as 'Medically Needy,' when they are unable to afford the cost of care for themselves or their loved ones. The Minnesota Medically Needy Medicaid program allows individuals to become eligible once they've spent their income down to $792 per month. Medicaid program staff use a formula to deduct the applicant's unreimbursed medical and care expenses from their income to determine whether they qualify under the Medically Needy option. Couples can have up to $1070 after medical and care expense deductions from their monthly income.

Medicaid planning is another option for individuals who exceed the program's strict financial criteria. It is possible to re-allocate some of one's income and financial resources into Qualifying Income Trusts and non-countable assets, such as home equity. By doing so, one effectively lowers their finances to a Medicaid eligible level. Persons wishing to take this approach should find assistance qualifying for Medicaid before submitting application paperwork. Learn more.


Benefits and Services

Individuals are accessed upon enrollment and receive a customized plan of services. Waiver participants may receive any of the following benefits:

  • Adult Day Care
  • Assisted Living
  • Home Delivered Meals
  • Home Health Aide
  • Home Modifications
  • Homemaker
  • Personal Care Assistant
  • Residential and Adult Foster Care
  • Skilled Nursing


How to Apply / Learn More

While this program is available statewide across Minnesota, there may be participation caps and, therefore, waiting lists may exist. Currently, however, multiple sources within the state social services report that there are no waiting lists.

One can learn more about or apply for the Elderly Waiver by contacting their long-term care consultant in their county health office. Use the state directory of county and tribal health offices here. Or, seniors can consult the FAQs on this page to find links to the paper application for Medical Services. 

There are other assistance programs available to Minnesota's elderly population. The Group Residential Housing Program and the Personal Care Assistance Program are two alternatives worth investigating.