What is ALTCS?

Arizona Long Term Care System (“ALTCS”) is part of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (“AHCCCS”). AHCCCS is Arizona’s state program that implements the Federal Medicaid health insurance programs. ALTCS provides acute and long term care services for persons who are elderly (over age 65), physically disabled or developmentally disabled. Nationwide, the Medicaid program pays for over half of all nursing home costs.

What does ALTCS pay for?
Who qualifies for ALTCS benefits?
What is the medical criteria?
What is the financial criteria?
When do I need an attorney?
What happens if my parents give away or transfer excess assets to qualify for ALTCS?
Will ALTCS take my house?

Will ALTCS decide where I will live?
If I receive ALTCS, will the state take over my social security and pension?
How much will I have to pay for my care while on ALTCS?

What does ALTCS pay for?

ALTCS offers a complete array of acute medical, skilled nursing, assisted living, home health, behavioral health services, home and community based services, and case management services to all eligible persons.

Services are coordinated and provided by an ALTCS program contractor selected by the applicant.

Who qualifies for ALTCS benefits?

Unlike Medicare, eligibility for ALTCS (Medicaid) is needs based. Applicants must be medically and financially needy to qualify for benefits. In addition to meeting the medical and financial criteria, an applicant must also meet the following conditions to receive benefits:

1. Elderly (65 or older), blind, or disabled;
2. U.S. Citizen or lawful resident alien;

3.  Reside in Arizona;
4. Must apply for all other potential benefits, such as pensions or VA benefits, and;
5. If not at home, reside at an ALTCS participating living arrangement.

What is the medical criteria?

Elderly or disabled applicants must be at risk of institutionalization, and require substantial assistance with activities of daily living. Medical eligibility is determined by a pre-admission screening (PAS) conducted by AHCCCS. The PAS consists of both a functional and medical assessment. The primary consideration is the applicant’s ability to perform his/her activities of daily living (ADL’s). These include mobility, transferring, toileting, dressing, feeding, bathing and grooming. The applicant’s diagnosis, sensory function, orientation, emotional/cognitive behavior and needed medical services and treatments are also scored. Typically, individuals who meet ALTCS medical criteria frequently present with a combination of the following needs or impairments: require skilled nursing care; require regular medical monitoring, require prompting, supervision, or hands-on assistance for ADL’s due to cognitive impairment (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia) or physical disability, incontinence, and/or psychosocial deficits.

To download the Medical Eligibility Requirements for ALTCS, click on the link below:

Basic Medical Eligibility Requirements for ALTCS

What is the financial criteria?

ALTCS applicants must meet BOTH the income and resource criteria, dependent on marital status.

Income Criteria (2022)

Single persons will qualify if gross monthly income is less than $2,523.00.00. Married persons will qualify if the applicant spouse’s gross monthly income is less than $2,523.00, or if both spouses’ gross monthly income is less than $5,046.00.

What if the income is greater than above? The applicant may still qualify by establishing and properly using an Income Only Trust (also known as a Miller Trust). If you require an Income Only Trust, call us.

Resource Criteria (2021)

Countable Assets: Countable assets generally consist of bank, investment, and retirement accounts, life insurance (cash value), stocks, bonds, cash on hand, and real property and/or land that is not also the applicant’s primary residence.

A single applicant cannot have more than $2,000.00 in countable resources to qualify for ALTCS. The rules are more complex for a married couple where one spouse will be institutionalized. For a married couple, all countable assets are added together (regardless of which spouse is the owner) as of the first month the applicant spouse met medical criteria, and that total is divided in one-half. This is the allowable Community Spouse Resource Assessment (“CSRA”). Note, however, that the CSRA may not exceed the maximum of $137,400.00, or be below the minimum of $27,480.00. In addition to the half that the spouse may retain, the applicant may also retain $2,000.00 in resources. Under most circumstances, if both spouses in a marriage are applicants, then each is limited to $2,000.00 in resources.

Non-countable Assets: Certain resources are considered excluded and therefore may be retained in addition to the allowable countable resources described above. In general, these resources include the primary residence (applicant’s interest may not exceed $636,000.00), one automobile, certain burial funds or irrevocable burial plans, burial plots, household goods and personal effects, and a few other items.

IMPORTANT: Not meeting all the financial criteria described herein does not mean one cannot become eligible. We can help you plan to both preserve assets and meet eligibility criteria. Call us! In general, the sooner we start planning, the more you can save and protect against the cost of long term care. 

When Do I need an attorney?

While the DIY spirit is great, there are certainly times when you should not do it yourself and instead call on a professional. This is one such time! If you or a loved one is currently receiving skilled care, assisted living, adult care home or home health care or may be in the future and you are concerned about affording such care you should always seek the legal advice of an Elder Law Attorney with knowledge and experience in Medicaid planning.

The ALTCS application process is a complicated maze with plenty of traps for those who are inexperienced in navigating the system.  Additionally, the amount of misinformation that is proffered by supposedly “reliable” sources causes many individuals to make costly planning mistakes at an already stressful time in their lives. Consequently, it is essential that you seek out guidance from an experienced Elder Law Attorney at the outset of any long term care planning. There are a number of non-lawyers who have started businesses offering Medicaid planning services to seniors. Additionally, many social workers who assist individuals with the Medicaid application process are offering advice, even though they are unfamiliar with the complex planning options that may be available. While using one of these services or relying on “unpaid” advice may be cheaper than hiring an attorney, the overall cost may end up being far greater. As a result of problems that have arisen from non-lawyers offering Medicaid planning services, a few states (Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, and Tennessee) have issued regulations or guidelines providing that Medicaid planning by non-lawyers will be considered the unauthorized practice of law. Applying for Medicaid is a highly technical and complex process. This detailed planning may involve the use of trusts, deeds, transfers of assets, purchase of annuities, and much more. Experienced lawyers who are familiar with Medicaid law (AHCCCS/ALTCS) are best able to help navigate this process. At Bivens & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys are knowledgeable in helping clients to plan and find significant financial savings and/or better care for themselves or their loved one. 

Despite popular myth, Medicare has very limited long term care benefit (100 days max in skilled nursing facility) and no benefit for memory care, assisted living, or on-going non-medical home health care. Medicaid (ALTCS) benefits can be vital to affording qualify long term care services whether at home or in a facility setting. Proper legal advice can make the difference between impoverishment and financial stability in the face of long term care expense.

More specifically, you should absolutely seek advice of an elder law attorney in the following circumstances:

1. You need an Income Only Trust (also known as a Miller Trust);

2. You own real property;

3. You have any amount of “excess” countable resources;

4. You are considering making any gift/transfer of assets, or the ALTCS applicant has made a gift/transfer in the last 5 years;

5. You have already submitted an ALTCS application, and were denied; or,

6. The ALTCS applicant is married and preservation of assets is desirable to provide for the “well-spouse”.

7. You want to avoid AHCCCS lien and/or estate recovery against your home property and/or other assets.

8. You want your ALTCS application to be approved and as quickly as possible.


What happens if my parents give away or transfer excess assets to qualify for ALTCS?

All gifts/transfers of the applicant or their spouse’s asset for less than fair market value within 5 years prior to applying for ALTCS must be disclosed at time of application; this is known as the “look back period”. The actual penalty, or number of months the applicant will be ineligible for benefits depends on the value of the gift/transfer. AHCCCS then calculates a period of ineligibility by dividing the total amount transferred by the average monthly cost of care in the county as determined by ALTCS, which is currently $8,029.46 in Maricopa, Pima, or Pinal Counties, and $7,331.78 in all other Arizona counties.  The resulting figure is the number of months of ineligibility, beginning the month of application.

There are limited instances in which gifts/transfers do not result in a period of ineligibility, such as transfers to/from a spouse, transfers to a disabled child or to a trust for a disabled child’s benefit, transfers to a Special Needs Trust pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1396p(d)(4)(A) or (C) for disabled persons under age 65, transfer of an excluded resource other than a home, and gifts/transfers not made with the intent to qualify for Medicaid/ALTCS benefits. In addition, any gift made prior to 60 months before applying for ALTCS benefits will not result in the imposition of a period of ineligibility.

If there have been or you contemplate making gifts/transfers prior to applying for ALTCS benefits it is imperative you seek advice of experienced elder law attorney. The information herein is only general in nature; there are many factors regarding how state and federal laws govern the treatment of gifts/transfers.

Will ALTCS take my house?

Not necessarily. AHCCCS/ALTCS has two specific methods available to recover against the applicant’s home property: (1) TEFRA lien, and (2) estate recovery. The following is general description of AHCCCS’ lien and estate recovery rules; you need to seek specific legal advice from an experienced elder law attorney to understand how the rules may actually impact you and what legal steps you may take to avoid lien and/or estate recovery in your particular circumstance.


Arizona may impose liens for ALTCS recipients who are permanently institutionalized (i.e., residing in a skilled nursing facility) for at least 90 days. AHCCCS may place a lien on the recipient’s interest in real property during their lifetime, including property owned by a life estate deed and/or subject to a beneficiary deed. AHCCCS shall seek to recover the lien upon the sale or transfer of the real property subject to the lien. However, a lien may not be imposed on a member’s home if any of the following individuals are lawfully residing in the home: spouse, individual’s child under the age of 21, or blind or disabled child, or an individual’s sibling (who had an equity interest in the home), and who was residing in such individual’s home for a period of at least one year immediately before the date the individual was admitted to a medical institution. In addition, AHCCCS shall not seek to recover the lien or attempt recovery against any real property subject to the lien so long as the member is survived by the member’s spouse, child under the age of 21, or disabled child. AHCCCS shall also not seek to recover a lien on an individual’s home if the member is survived by a sibling who resided in the deceased member’s home and who was residing in the home for at least one year before the member’s institutionalization, or a child resides in the home who lived there for at least two years immediately before the admission to a nursing home and provided care to the parent, which allowed the parent to reside at home rather than in an institution.

Estate Recovery

AHCCCS has an estate recovery claim against the Estate of a deceased ALTCS recipient in an amount of the value of ALTCS services rendered after the ALTCS recipient’s age of 55.  Note, assets which pass outside of the probate process (e.g., joint tenancy or direct beneficiary designation) are not subject to estate recovery claim. Further, AHCCCS will not impose estate recovery if the ALTCS recipient is survived by a spouse or disabled child of any age.

What is “Spend-Down”?

“Spend-down” is the term of art which generally describes the process of maneuvering the countable assets in excess of the applicant’s resource limit to below the applicable limit.  For example, the single person countable asset limit is $2,000.00.  As such, a single ALTCS applicant who has $80,000.00 in countable assets has $78,000.00 to “spend-down”.  Spend-down often involves paying valid debts and expenses, the purchase desirable non-countable assets, gifts/transfers, or a combination thereof depending upon many factors, including marital status, income, expenses, type and value of assets, medical need, placement, as well as personal goals and objectives.

Every circumstance is different and there is no “one size fits all” spend-down plan.  If you have “excess assets” we can help you determine the best course of action to preserve assets and qualify for benefits.

Will ALTCS decide where I will live?

No, the applicant or his legal representative will determine where the applicant resides and receives services. Note, however, if the applicant resides outside the home, the placement selected must be an ALTCS participating living arrangement.

If I receive ALTCS, will the state take over my social security and pension?

No, the state does not take control of monthly income or accounts. The ALTCS program rules do, however, prescribe how much the ALTCS recipient is required to pay towards his/her long term expenses (see discussion below).

How much will I have to pay for my care while on ALTCS?

Persons receiving ALTCS benefits may be required to pay a portion of their fixed income towards their care.  The amount to be paid, referred to as “share of cost” or “room and board”, depends upon the monthly income amount, type of placement, out-of-pocket medical expenses, applicable Personal Needs Allowance (PNA), and spousal allowance (if applicable). Note, the PNA is $126.15 for persons residing in skilled nursing, assisted living or memory care and $2,523.00 for persons residing at home. The ALTCS program contractor will determine the amount to be paid.

In general, single ALTCS recipients pay an amount equivalent to their monthly income less the value of their out-of-pocket medical expenses and applicable PNA. Based upon the foregoing, single persons at home who earn less than the PNA ($2,523.00/month) will pay nothing towards the cost of their long term care provided by ALTCS.

For married persons, the recipient’s spouse may also be entitled to keep a portion of the ALTCS recipient’s income, known as the community spouse monthly income allowance (CSMIA). A community spouse is entitled to a monthly income of at least $2,177.50 and no more than $3,435.00, depending on certain factors and so long as the income is actually made available to the community spouse. If the spouse does not earn enough on his/her own to cover this amount, the community spouse is then entitled to draw enough money from the recipient’s income to make up the difference. All of the recipient’s remaining monthly income, after payment of the PNA, CSMIA, and out-of-pocket medical expenses shall be paid towards share of cost/room and board. Note, share of cost/room and board is never assessed against the community spouse’s income.

The attorneys at Bivens & Associates, P.L.L.C. have helped hundreds of families for over 20 years protect and preserve their hard-earned assets while ensuring they receive quality long term care.  Whether you are planning in advance or are currently in need of long term care, we have the knowledge and experience you need to achieve best financial and personal outcomes. Our elder law attorneys and legal professionals assist families in all stages of the ALTCS planning, application and maintenance process, as well as preparation of all legal documents (e.g., trusts or other estate planning documents, deeds, etc.) required to implement the chosen strategies.

CALL US TODAY at 480-922-1010 or email info@bivenslaw.com to schedule your consultation with one of our elder law attorneys. We are here to help.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as offering legal advice or creating an attorney client relationship between the reader and the firm or author. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content herein without seeking appropriate legal advice about your individual facts and circumstances from an attorney licensed in your state. Bivens & Associates, PLLC expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all information contained herein.  These eligibility criteria numbers herein are effective as of 01/01/2022 and subject to change.