What can I buy and still be eligible for SSI and/or Medicaid?

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

To qualify for SSI or Medicaid, you can only have a certain amount of money or property (“resources”). Read this to learn how you can buy certain things to get to an amount where you qualify. #5107EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You should read this if any of these describe you:

  • You are applying for SSI or Medicaid, but you currently have too much money or property to qualify.      

  • You already get SSI or Medicaid, but you received some extra money or property from an inheritance or gift.

  • You already get SSI or Medicaid and someone wants to give you a gift.

In order to get SSI or Medicaid, you can only have a certain amount of money or property ("resources"). It is helpful to understand why there is a resource limit for SSI and Medicaid before thinking through how it works. 

Generally, SSI and Medicaid are for people who can't afford to pay for their basic needs with what they already have. If you can pay for your basic needs with what you already have, you may not need SSI and Medicaid right now.

Not all resources are treated the same. For example, the things you need for everyday life, like a house, a car, clothing and household goods, are not counted as part of the resource limit. 

The rules about the resource limit rules are complicated. This provides only a general explanation.

In most situations, the resource limit for SSI and Medicaid is $2,000 for one person or $3,000 for a couple.  Not all resources count toward this overall resource limit. 

Cash and bank accounts count towards the resource limit.  Physical property can also count if you can easily sell it.  Some money and property is not counted ("exempt"). This can include many things that you need for everyday life, like a house, a car, clothing and household goods. 

 

Generally, you have 3 options:

  1. spend or use the resource(s),

  2. temporarily stop getting SSI and/or Medicaid, or

  3. find a different way to hold the resource(s) and stay on SSI and/or Medicaid.  

We discuss below how you can spend or use the resource(s). This is often your best option if the money or property is only a little over the resource limit.

If you have or get a lot of money or property as a gift, inheritance, or personal injury settlement, you should talk to a lawyer. You might need to consider a Special Needs Trust or ABLE Account. Read Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Accounts to learn more.   

If you are already on SSI and/or Medicaid, you can get the items listed here as gifts and remain eligible. 

If you currently have too much money to qualify for SSI or Medicaid, you can spend some of it on the items listed here.

  • A home (SSA may reduce your SSI income for the month you received the home)

  • Home furnishings or appliances

  • Medical expenses or bills not covered by Medicaid or Medicare

  • Dental expenses, eye glasses, physical therapy, and so on

  • Education expenses (including computer, software, books, and so on)

  • Entertainment or recreation expenses

  • Vacation travel

  • Pay a lawyer to do estate planning and/or Medicaid planning

  • Pay off debts

  • Pre-pay burial arrangements

  • Personal hygiene (haircuts, manicures)

  • An automobile, pay for registration and insurance

  • Clothing

  • Set aside up to $2,000 for a single person, or up to $3,000 for a married couple, in non-exempt resources, for example in savings checking, etc.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: Jul 18, 2022
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