Medicaid and Unmarried Couples

In this article...
  • Find out how living with a boyfriend or girlfriend can affect eligibility for Medicaid benefits. Learn about Medicaid rules that unmarried couples need to know.

Most people know that Medicaid treats married couples as a single household. But what about Medicaid for unmarried couples who live together? Medicaid most often treats these couples as individuals with separate households, even if the couple shares a residence. 

Medicaid and Unmarried Couples

In most cases, Medicaid eligibility is dependent on financial need. People with high incomes or too many assets may not qualify for Medicaid benefits. Medicaid often evaluates a person's eligibility based on Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) which considers a person's household size and income. Understanding what constitutes a household can help you evaluate whether you will qualify for Medicaid. 

Generally, Medicaid doesn't consider unmarried couples to be a household. That means even if you live with a boyfriend or girlfriend, Medicaid will likely treat you as if you were single. Medicaid's treatment of unmarried couples is good news if you or your partner want to qualify for benefits, but the other person's income or assets would create an eligibility problem.

Asset Transfer Rules and Penalties 

Medicaid rules forbid applicants from transferring assets during a "lookback period," which consists of the five years before applying for benefits. The rule applies to cash transfers, large gifts and selling items for less than fair market value. Applicants who transferred property during a lookback period may be penalized with a delay in their Medicaid eligibility. The purpose of this rule is to prevent people from making themselves eligible for Medicaid by giving property to friends or otherwise hiding assets. 

Unmarried couples may wish to pay close attention to these transfer rules. Because married couples are treated as a single household anyway, spouses can transfer cash and property to one another. However, other partners aren't able to freely transfer property without violating the lookback rules. Medicaid for unmarried couples may be complicated if assets have been combined or exchanged. Additionally, a beneficiary who receives significant assets from a boyfriend or girlfriend could lose Medicaid eligibility. 

Does Marital Status Affect Medicaid Eligibility? 

Yes, marital status can affect your eligibility for Medicaid benefits. Even if you are already a Medicaid beneficiary, marrying a person with significant assets or income could disqualify you from continuing to receive benefits. Medicaid treats married couples as a household for MAGI calculations, even if the couple files separate tax returns. 

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