MEDICAID RECIPIENTS IN OR & WA COULD HAVE ASSETS SEIZED UPON DEATH
February 11, 2014 by Katherine Rodriguez
There is an old adage that says the three most stressful things in life are moving, death and taxes. If you’re a Medicaid recipient in Oregon or Washington State, you might want to think about how to prepare for the latter.
Over a period of almost two years from July 2011 to June 2013, Oregon claimed $41 million in assets from about 8,900 people, The Washington Post reported.
A little known aspect of Medicaid allows some states in certain cases to recoup its losses incurred by medical costs by seizing the assets of the deceased.
The rule has been in place since 1993 after Congress realized it needed money to pay rising Medicaid expenses within the states, and it has always applied to Medicaid recipients between the ages of 55 and 64.
Under Obamacare, the expansion of Medicaid eligibility has also expanded the number of people who fit this category.
Fox News reports of one Washington resident who was shocked to find out that he not only qualified for Medicaid, but also its asset-seizing consequences:
Tom Gialanella, 56, was shocked to find out he qualified for Medicaid under ObamaCare. The Bothell, Wash., resident had been able to retire early years ago, owns his home outright in a pricey Seattle suburb and is living off his investments.
He wanted no part of the government’s so-called free health care. “It’s supposed to be a safety net program. It’s not supposed to be for someone who has assets who can pay the bill,” he said.
Governments promptly took notice and started to modify their policies.
Washington State changed its asset recovery policy right before the new year to avoid“unintended consequences” for people who enroll in Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act expansion.
The state will still be allowed to place property liens on Medicaid clients 55 and over for long-term care expenses in special cases.
Oregon also changed its estate-recovery rules right before the new year. According toOregon Health Authority, recovery will no longer apply to health benefits for people 55 and over, but the state can still seize property for long-term care.
Some state exchange administrators realized that slight changes to the rules alone will not encourage people from signing up for expanded Medicaid, so they sought different strategies to approach people.
Oregon’s Medicaid office opted to change its approach so people would not be afraid to sign up for expanded Medicaid.
“If you’re receiving a public benefit and the state is trying to support you, you should give back if you are able,” said Judy Mohr Peterson, Oregon’s Medicaid director. “We needed to take another look at heath insurance coverage from the point of view of it not being a public benefit that’s voluntary.”
But some members of the public still aren’t convinced.
One retired lawyer from New York City planned to leave an $850,000 apartment to her loved ones, but fears the government could come after her property.
“I don’t want my assets to be raided after my death,” she said. “The idea that someone can come after my house after I die — I just can’t do it.”
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