Estate recovery? MassHealth?
If this issue is new to you, please read on. Then, please take action by contacting your state legislators to support a temporary COVID-19 relief bill. More to come on permanent reforms.
You may be surprised to learn that if MassHealth members die leaving a probate estate (typically the family home), MassHealth will seek to get back everything it has spent since that individual turned age 55. Does federal law require this? No. Federal law basically only requires recovery for people who need nursing home care & related spending. This is optional. Are there at least provisions for hardship if there are low income family members living in the home? Yes but the rules were amended during the Romney administration and are extremely narrow, and, even when they should apply, it is hard to convince the Estate Recovery unit that they do apply. Want to know more? Read the one sentence (item # 10) on p. 17 of the MassHealth application --that's how MassHealth provides notice.
With other progressive states, like California, having eliminated optional estate recovery in recent years, MassHealth is now the most aggressive estate recovery collector of any state in the country and 90 percent of its recoveries are from the family home.
As we all grapple with the way in which COVID 19 has cast a bright light on health inequities in our health care system, this is one more example of an unfair system. This Oct 2019 Atlantic Monthly article profiling a Massachusetts family caught up with MassHealth estate recovery effectively makes the case that Medicaid estate recovery reinforces intergenerational poverty.
Last Thursday, Sen Jo Comerford & Rep Christine Barber, filed a MassHealth estate recovery relief bill tied to the COVID-19 emergency. It will provide short-term relief to grieving families trying to cope with the loss of a loved one and the complexities of estate recovery and the probate process during and after the pandemic.It is an important first step towards what we really need, permanent reforms to Medicaid estate recovery in Massachusetts.
Please contact your legislators by June 26, 2020 to ask them to co-sponsor HD5144/SD2976, An Act To Address Estate Recovery Issues Due To COVID-19
HD5144/SD2976, An Act To Address Estate Recovery Issues Due To COVID-19
What the bill does:
1. Extends the current timeline of 60 days to 180 days for the estate’s Personal Representative to respond to MassHealth regarding any claims against the estate.
2. Waives the 12% interest charged on the MassHealth claims (until 180 days after the emergency ends).
3. Prohibits MassHealth from taking any action to compel the sale of real estate to meet the estate recovery claim if someone is currently residing in the house (until 180 days after the emergency ends)
Find out who your state legislators are – state Representative and state Senator can be found here: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/wheredoivotema/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx Get the legislators’ email address.
These Senators are already co-sponsors: Welch, Cyr, DiZoglio, Jehlen, Chandler, Crighton
The bill has been endorsed by the Massachusetts chapter of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (MassNAELA), Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), Massachusetts Councils on Aging, Massachusetts Senior Action Council, Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, and Mass Home Care.
The Bill and a Fact Sheet are attached.