Articles Posted in Medicaid Eligibility

Current federal regulations require Medicaid programs run by states to try to recoup the cost from estates of recipients who have since passed away even if the state would rather not pursue such recovery. 

Medicaid programs must pursue compensation for the cost of nursing home services as well as home and community-situated services in addition to other associated services if a person who receives Medicaid was at least 55 at the time the services were provided. States have the choice to pursue recovery for other services due. The recovery is restricted by the size of the deceased individual’s estate. No other public benefit program requires that correctly paid benefits be received from a deceased Medicaid recipient’s family members. The minimum revenue created by estate recovery is surpassed by the burden it places on low-income individuals. The burden unfairly falls on families whose loved one’s experience 

The Stop Unfair Medicaid Recoveries Act was introduced by an Illinois representative and if passed into law would revise the Social Security Act’s Title XIX to repeal requirements that states create a Medicaid Estate Recovery Program and restrict the circumstances when a state can institute a lien on property owned by a Medicaid beneficiary. 

Deciding how to receive the medical care that a person needs is a critical part of the elder law process. Unfortunately, the unpredictable nature of aging and medical issues can make it challenging to determine what lies ahead. Various states have also begun to attempt to resolve financing challenges associated with elder care that a growing number of Americans will face in the next couple of decades as a growing portion of the baby boomer generation requires medical care.

The Growing Need for Assistance

Any person can end up needing assistance as they age. This is true regardless of whether a person ends up facing dementia, a significant drop in eyesight, or mobility issues. The degree of assistance and how long a person faces these issues can vary substantially. A person might end up needing assistance with meals, other daily living activities, or total care for the months or years before they pass away. Other times, people end up needing total care for years. The unpredictable nature of a person’s future makes it challenging to plan ahead.

Medicaid is a safety net for millions of senior citizens across the country, providing funding to pay for home care, adult day care, or prescription drugs. However, the program is designed for low income individuals and can leave many on the fence financially over whether to choose to spend down assets or pay for these necessary services themselves.

Currently, the threshold to receive Medicaid services is only a few hundred dollars for individuals and just over $1,000 for married couples, which leaves these individuals with little income to pay rent, utilities, or buy groceries. Even financially secure seniors can find themselves needing vital Medicaid services like in-home or nursing home care in the event of a catastrophic health event, making planning for the future and keeping options open all the more vital.

One option that may be viable for certain individuals is joining a Pooled Supplemental Needs Trusts, also known as a Pooled Income Trust. Pooled income trusts work by the individual sending his or her income from Social Security, pensions, or annuities to non-profit organizations to pay bills and other expenses to stay below the Medicaid threshold. Any income left over after the individual passes away goes to the non-profit.

Pooled Trusts Eligibility

Pooled Trusts are a type of trust applicable to those individuals who are seeking public assistance benefits, such as Medicaid, to become eligible financially by setting aside funds in a trust for additional needs. The trust allows its beneficiaries to preserve a specified amount of money in a trust to pay for supplemental care not covered by public assistance programs. For the elderly, many need public benefits assistance as they continue to age but do not qualify based on higher income. In these situations, a pooled income trust will benefit an elderly person by allowing them to continue their lifestyle, which is usually seeking to stay in the home, while also obtaining homecare services and paying for what their budget requires.

New York Medicaid Rules

THOROUGH PLANNING NEEDED IN ADVANCE

This blog has discussed the necessity of proper and thorough planning to ensure a smooth transition into a continuing care retirement community.  This requires, among other things, that a person properly and legally transfer all of their assets, or a substantial portion of their assets that is, to people or entities that would enable them to be eligible for Medicaid.  As many people know, there is a look back period where the state examines all transfers of assets or money over a certain period of time for purposes of Medicaid eligibility purposes.  

If during that time a person transferred any aset for less than full market value or did not transfer the assets to a proper investment vehicle that is otherwise exempt from Medicaid assets, the Medicaid applicant will likely be denied for financial reasons.  In other words Medicaid will claim that the applicant has too many assets or their income is too high to qualify.  Some examples of a Medicaid exempt transfer is the purchase of a graveyard plot, prepayment for funeral services or the purchase of a short term Medicaid annuity.  An interesting case from November, 2015 out of Broome County, entitled Good Shepherd Village at Endwell v. Peter Yezzi shows the many problems that can result when people start their Medicaid planning after admission to a continuing care retirement community.

SOME LIMITED RELIEF

Patients who rely on Medicare sometimes experience sticker shock after being released from the hospital only to find out that because some hospital administrator classified their stay as “observational” that they must pay a large portion of the final bill. Many times a doctor will seek to have a patient admitted for any number of reasons, only to have a bureaucrat reclassify the patient’s time at the hospital as observational. Such a designation will mean that Medicare will not pay for this time in the hospital. For Medicare to pay for a hospital stay, the patient has to be an admitted patient for at least three days (three midnights in the hospital).

Observational status does not equate to an admitted patient in Medicare’s own set of self defined definitions. That may be quite different to the patient who went to the hospital and received a number of drugs and tests during their time their and was consistent with the majority of their non-surgical stays in a hospital in life. In an effort to address these obvious problems that will only grow with time, President Obama signed a bill that required hospitals to warn patients that their stay will be considered observational in nature and that they are not being admitted under Medicare’s rules, which may result in a bill from the hospital that they will have to pay. The Notice of Observation Treatment and Implications for Care Eligibility Act would have to inform the patient that they are going to receive outpatient services under Medicare’s rules which requires cost sharing from the patient and that the observational status does not count towards the necessary three day inpatient in order to transition to a skilled nursing care facility.

Health insurers across the United States received a welcome surprise when they discovered that they will be receiving a 1.25% increase next year in Medicare revenue benefits. This declaration reverses a previous proposal by the U.S. government to decrease the amount of Medicare benefits that insurance companies would receive in order to bring it in line with other government programs for the elderly and disabled.

Medicare Benefits for Insurance Companies

The U.S. government has been slowly decreasing the amount of Medicare benefits received by insurance companies in a bid to bring private Medicare coverage equal to other government aid programs. This year, insurance companies received four percent less in benefits than 2014, and the original proposal for 2016 included benefits cuts of another 0.9%.

The New York Medicaid program is a critical lifeline for millions of residents. Unfortunately, many remain confused by some of the complex details. It is common to have only a fragmented understanding of how Medicaid works from random discussions with friends and neighbors or by hearing snippets of news clips discussing the program.

One of the most misunderstood aspects of the system is the “spend down” requirement. Medicaid is a need-based program, and so qualification requires one to have assets below a very low threshold. But that does not mean that everything you own will be lost before qualifying for Medicaid.

Medicaid Misunderstandings.

The price of nursing home care in New York is staggering. It is not uncommon for a stay to cost upwards of $15,000 – $20,000 per month. This is a burden that many New York seniors can not afford to pay. After all , many local residents are only living on small fixed incomes, and coming up with $180,000 – $240,000 per year to live in a skilled nursing facility is unthinkable.

For most resident the only alternative is support via the New York Medicaid system. But residents can usually only qualify for Medicaid if their non-exempt assets are “spent down.” In our state, the allowable amount of total assets is only $14,550. There are complex rules about what assets count toward this amount, but a NY Medicaid lawyer can explain whether things like a long-time family home can be saved or if retirement accounts must also be drained.

Look-Back Period

The Urban Institute recently released a new survey appraising the preparation for Medicaid expansion in many different states as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The analysis discusses how eight individual states, including New York, are changing their programs to accommodate the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The findings are part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State Health Reform Assistance Network tracking program. A full online copy of the survey can be found here.

The study authors note that many states are using Medicaid “managed care” to expand eligibility. For example, as discussed in the report, New York “intends to move non-dual-eligible nursing home patients into managed care.” The goal is to complete the transition by October of this year. New York plans to participate in a special program to help manage care for seniors who are “dual eligible” for both Medicaid and Medicare. This includes many elderly community members. This program is know as the State Demonstrations to Integrate Care for Dual Eligible Individuals.

In addition, as part of the change, New York is switching from a voluntary managed care enrollment to a required one. In the past providers could participate if they chose, but now they cannot. New enrollments requirements mandate managed care participation. Over the long-term, of course, this requirement means that more and more Medicaid participants will be on managed care.

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