When applying for MassHealth, the at-home spouse, known as the community spouse, is allowed to keep all of the community spouse’s own income, no matter how much that amount may be. If the community spouse’s own income is below $1,939, however, the community spouse is allowed to divert income from the institutionalized spouse to get up to the $1,939 requirement of the current law. (Note: the $1,939 minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance —MMMNA— will likely increase on July 1, 2014.)
The $1,939 in income currently allowed for the community spouse can be increased if the community spouse’s housing expenses are high. That increase is known as the Excess Shelter Allowance. If the community spouse’s housing expenses are more than 30% of the MMMNA, (i.e., 30% of $1939, which comes to $582), then the additional income needed is referred to as the Excess Shelter Allowance, and ends up being an additional income allowance for the community spouse.
For some spouses, the increased income allowance can mean an increase in the community spouse resource allowance, which is the total amount of assets that the at-home spouse is allowed to keep. See Protecting Assets and Maximum Income for the Community Spouse When Applying for MassHealth in 2013 to Help Pay for the Unhealthy Spouse’s Nursing Home Bills in Massachusetts