New law allows collection after death - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

New law allows collection after death

March 21, 2004

Albany -- As early as this summer, Georgia lawmakers plan to start enforcing a federal law that allows the state to recover Medicaid expenses from the estate of patients. The state could seize savings and even homes to pay back Medicaid.

Cherrine James took over the job of caring for her 102 year-old cousin ,Carrie Dyes, after her mother died. Dyes had been living alone until last year when a stroke forced her to move to an assisted living home.

"She has no kids, and we are the only family she has," says James.

Dyes, like 50 thousand other Georgians, has her nursing home expenses paid by Medicaid.

And like many of them she owns a home and has a small nest egg which puts her at risk under the "estate recovery" provision in Governor Perdue's budget plan. The plan will allow states to collect their Medicare expenses paid to older Georgians from their estates after they pass away.

"Because Medicaid is hurting and the cost are rising so fast, Congress has to do something to enforce it or cut it out all together," says Stewart Brown a lawyer who focuses on elder law.

Brown says estate collection practice has been federal law since 1993, but has never been enforced in Georgia. He says there are exceptions of when the state can recollect on it's payments.

  • The state must wait to collect until after the Medicaid recipient's spouse dies.
  • Also if there is a child under 21 who has been taking care of the patient for over 2 years the state can not seize property.
  • If there is a disabled child is living a home.

However adult children or relatives of patients are not protected.

The state can seize assets and put liens on property until all expenses are recovered. This is a practice that does not sit well with caregivers like James.

"Everything you have worked for in hopes that your child will have something when you are gone ends up going to the government," says James.

Brown says the only solution is to plan ahead through investments, build a saving and having long term insurance or legal Medicaid estate planning done. These are small steps that can ensure you have something to pass on in the future.

The state plans to recover more than 2 million dollars the first year the plan goes into affect. 48 other states already actively enforce federal Medicaid recovery laws.

posted at 7:32PM by scott.hunter@walb.com

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