January 24, 2014 2:55 pm -

Igor Vosky at Think Progress exposes the sly maneuver Republicans are using that prevents those who need health care the most from signing up. Using scare tactics, they are telling older Americans that the government can take their assets when they die, and they’re depending on a little-known part of the 1965 Medicaid law to back up their claims.

In 1965, the federal government permitted states to “recover from the estates of deceased Medicaid recipients who were over age 65 when they received benefits.” The provision was grounded in the rather conservative theory that wealthier individuals should take responsibility for their health care costs and pay back taxpayers for hundreds of thousands of dollars of care. As Washington & Lee law professor Tim Jost put it, “it’s only fair that the state can recover for long-term care if there are significant assets left behind.”

But this would affect very few people:

According to a 2005 AARP report, 25 states recover all services covered under Medicaid, 10 recover items besides long-term care and 10 only recover for long-term services. Newly eligible individuals who live in one of the states with an expansive recovery programs would have to be 55 or older, maintain significant none income earning assets (yet still qualify for Medicaid) and remain ineligible for the provision’s existing exemptions. States are prohibited from recovering assets during the lifetime of the surviving spouse, from a surviving child who is under age 21, or if the deceased sibling or adult child lived in the home continuously for a significant period of time.

That rules out a good portion of the newly-eligible population, Jost says, calling the issue “more an imagined than a real problem.”

Joust says, “It’s going to have to be a fairly significant asset to be worth [the state’s] trouble.”“This is not a very big problem,” he concluded.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.