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Answers to tax questions on Medicare, Medi-Cal benefits

Q: My wife and I are both retired (70 & 79). My mother has lived with us since 1999 and is now 101. Fortunately, she is in excellent health and receives only Social Security benefits of about $1,200 per month. In seeking to declare her as a dependent, all of the requirements cited in your column are met by us in this case. However, our accountant states that if we declare her as a dependent she will lose her Medi-Cal benefits. Is that accurate?

A: Based on the facts you provided, your accountant is mistaken. The Affordable Care Act has created some confusion in this area. The act did change income-counting rules for some Medi-Cal recipients — mainly adults 64 and under, parents, children, and pregnant women, said Cori Racela, a senior attorney with the Western Center on Law & Poverty. For those groups, it does matter how people claim each other on their taxes (although it is not a requirement to file taxes to get Medi-Cal).

However, the income rules for people who are 65 or older, blind or disabled are the same as before the act took effect. For them, tax filings have no bearing on Medi-Cal eligibility. Whether or not they claim mom as a dependent won’t affect her eligibility. Her income and assets will be the deciding factor.

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