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The Hidden Impact of Medicaid Estate Recovery: A Burden on Families

Camarda Wealth Advisory Group

In July 2021, a 62-year-old woman received a shocking letter revealing an unexpected Medicaid debt of over $77,000 incurred by her deceased 88-year-old mother. This incident sheds light on the often-overlooked consequences of Medicaid estate recovery, disproportionately affecting families relying on Medicaid for long-term care services.

The Unforeseen Burden

The woman cared for her mother with vascular dementia at their Midwestern home. Despite having insurance coverage, enrolling in Medicaid became necessary for caregiver payments. Unexpected charges through a Medicaid managed care organization led the state to seek reimbursement from the estate.

Origins of Estate Recovery

A 1993 congressional mandate requires states to recover Medicaid expenses from estates of beneficiaries over 55 using long-term care services. Critics argue it disproportionately affects low-income families, as Medicaid eligibility requires assets to be nearly depleted, often leaving the family home as the primary asset subject to recovery.

Challenges and Inequities

Obtaining hardship waivers, offered by some states, can be arduous and futile. Estate recovery burdens not only low-income families but also middle-class families using Medicaid due to exorbitant long-term care costs. A family in Marblehead, Mass., faced recovery of over $292,000 for home care costs, leaving minimal proceeds from the sale of their mother’s condo.

The Need for Reform

Medicaid estate recovery deters individuals from seeking care and places immense burdens on families. The consequences of Medicaid estate recovery, as seen in the case of the 62-year-old woman and many others, disproportionately impact low-income and middle-class families.

Reforms are necessary to strike a balance between recovering expenses and protecting vulnerable families. By addressing these challenges, we can ensure access to essential care without jeopardizing financial stability or intergenerational wealth.

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