For 20 years, federal law has protected married couples from having
to choose between divorcing or becoming impoverished when one spouse
needs expensive nursing home care, allowing the healthier spouse to
retain assets and income while the sicker one’s care is covered by
New York State has routinely extended the same benefits to people
with illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease or cancer who receive care at
home, which is both less expensive and less disruptive to relationships.
Now, the federal government has ruled that New York has been too
generous in applying the income protections to people at home, forcing
several thousand couples to make a stark choice by March.
“They’re saying if you put your spouse in a nursing home, you’re
going to get to keep more income than if you keep your spouse out of a
nursing home,” said Mark L. Kissinger, deputy commissioner of long-term
care for the state Health Department. “That’s completely opposite to
public policy and research of the last 10 years.”...