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Medicaid Targets Deceased Family Members' Homes for Cost Recovery

The federal government requires every state in the US to recover money for Medicaid.
Cover Image Source: Health Care Costs | Unsplash | Photo by Online Marketing
Cover Image Source: Health Care Costs | Unsplash | Photo by Online Marketing

In the United States, Medicaid, a joint federal and state program, mandates that states recover funds expended on health care for individuals who were beneficiaries of the program. This often involves targeting assets, including family homes, particularly when Medicaid covers the healthcare expenses of deceased relatives.

Pexels | Photo by Pixabay
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

While homes are typically exempt from recovery efforts, they can become collateral if the deceased individual is over 55 years old or receives long-term care through Medicaid. The lack of awareness about this aspect of Medicaid can lead to shock and financial strain for families upon receiving substantial bills for healthcare costs.

Although Medicaid's pursuit of patient homes constitutes only about 1% of the funds it aims to recover, many states fail to adequately inform individuals about the potential claim on their property. Moreover, there is a lack of uniformity among states regarding what this program can target for recovery.

These assistants are required even when doctors are not around and taking patient care is a mandatory job for hem|Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Pixabay | Pexels

Some states pursue the costs of all medical procedures, while others focus solely on expenses related to long-term care facilities. States like New York and Ohio have been among the top collectors of Medicaid recovery funds, recovering more than $100 million combined in a single year, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.

However, programs in states like Kansas have highlighted discrepancies in the eligibility criteria for estate claims. A recent investigation of the program by the Health and Human Services inspector general, released on Tuesday, revealed its cost-effectiveness.

The program generated $37 million in revenue while allocating only $5 million towards recovery efforts. However, the investigation highlighted inconsistencies in the state's execution, as it failed to consistently collect funds from eligible estates.

Image Source: Photo by MART PRODUCTION | Pexels

Critics argue that Medicaid's estate recovery program perpetuates wealth disparities and intergenerational poverty.

Katherine Howitt, Medicaid policy director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts, highlights the potential negative impact of estate recovery on vulnerable populations. "Estate recovery has the potential to perpetuate wealth disparities and intergenerational poverty," she says.

Furthermore, the originator of the estate recovery rule, Stephen Moses, has admitted that the program's implementation diverges from its original intent. Initially designed to incentivize personal savings for long-term care, the program now penalizes individuals who rely on Medicaid due to the unfeasibility of private savings for healthcare costs.

Image Source: Photo by Thirdman | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Thirdman | Pexels

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission recommended that Congress reverse the 1993 law mandating states to recover funds from estates, proposing it be made optional. Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois recently reintroduced legislation to terminate the federal government's mandate.

Schakowsky argues that the rule is detrimental to families, who risk losing their homes, and taxpayers, who see minimal returns from the recovery efforts. "It is one of the most cruel, ineffective programs that we see. This is a program that doesn’t work for anybody," she told the AP.

The debate surrounding Medicaid's estate recovery program underscores the complexity of balancing healthcare access and financial responsibility. While Medicaid aims to recoup funds to sustain its services, critics argue that the current approach disproportionately burdens low-income individuals and perpetuates economic inequality.