Health Care Asset Recovery Not a Threat To Most Medicaid Patients

By Steve Jackson

Some people who are eligible to recover Medicaid under the Washington state expansion of that program may have been scared off by stories that they would be financially liable if they needed to use the system for major medical coverage.

Washington was one state that chose to take the federal governments expansion of Medicaid services under the Affordable Care Act. Thousands of residents have signed up for the program, but some may have held off, after hearing that the program may threaten their assets.

Mila Gilbert is a Pend O'reille county resident who conferred with an insurance broker in January about his eligibility for Medicaid. While he was told that he did qualify, the broker advised him that should be need major medical attention, the Medicaid program would be able to take his assets to help pay for his care.

Gilbert: “After he told me that, I sat there and thought about it for a while, I decided no my house goes to my kids and if I die 3 years sooner than otherwise, who cares, I don’t.”

While some who qualify for Medicaid in the state may be folks who meet the income guidelines, but have a rather large estate, Gilbert is not one of them. He says his house "is worth $60,000, and it’s a 113 year old log cabin.”

Jim Stephenson, of the Washington Health Care Authority, says the state enacted an emergency rule just as the Affordable Care Act was going into effect earlier this year. He says that rule removed the estate recovery rule for medical care to try to assure people that qualify for Medicaid should not be afraid their property is in jeopardy. He says "Our recovery efforts only apply to long term care clients, and associated expenditures.”

Long term care refers to care that is typical when a person has to enter a nursing home. Steve Kozack is program manager with the state’s health care Authority, who says the definition means someone needs a specific type of care for at least 30 days.

Kozack: “And they need a level of care of activities with their daily living, you help with grooming bathing, that type of thing. But again, it’s a least 30 days that a person has to have that level of need before they are moved into a long term care type of program."

The Health Care Authority recognizes that there may have been a delay in the time the emergency rule was enacted until the time it was received by workers helping to assist people with signup to Medicaid in the state. In the case of the Insurance broker who advised Mila Gilbert in Pend Oreille county, the broker said he received the memo just a couple of days after his meeting with Gilbert.
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