Governor Cuomo recently accepted proposals from New York’s newly created Medicaid Redesign Team (“MRT”). While it is early in the process, and the proposals may not be implemented in their present form or at all, budgeting pressures at all levels of government make it likely that some changes in the Medicaid program will occur. Here are a few of the particularly troubling features of the MRT’s proposals:
Elimination of Spousal/Parental Refusal
Currently, a spouse may refuse to support their spouse who is an applicant for Community Medicaid or Medicaid Home Care. When this occurs, Medicaid is obligated to provide care or services to the applicant, assuming he is eligible (under $13,800 in resources), even if the spouse can afford to pay. The MRT is proposing that the resources and income of the spouse should be considered in determining whether the applicant is eligible for Medicaid. This means that spouses, and parents of disabled children, will be required to spend down virtually all of the household’s assets, and contribute a share of their income, before their ill spouse or disabled child will be eligible to receive care.
5-year “Look Back” for Community Medicaid and Home Care
Currently, the 5-year look back and transfer penalties apply only to applicants for Institutional Medicaid (for Nursing Home Care). Currently, applicants for Community Medicaid or Home Care are able to transfer their assets to family members, friends, or trusts, and thereby become eligible for Community Medicaid benefits. The MRT’s proposal would extend the 5-year look back to Community Medicaid and Home Care, which means that many potential applicants will find that they are ineligible for Medicaid, or subject to a lengthy penalty period before benefits can be obtained.
Currently, it is difficult for Medicaid to recover from the estates of Medicaid recipients where the recipient has effectively transferred their assets during life to a family member or trust. The proposed law would allow Medicaid the ability to seek recovery in these cases.
Impact of these proposals
If these proposals become law, many Medicaid applicants and their families will be severely affected. Some will find their financial situation and lifestyle significantly diminished, and others may find it difficult to pay for even basic living expenses. Many may apply for food stamps, another program funded by the government.
What to do? Now, more than ever, people who need, or may need (even if they think they will never need it), long-term care should make it a top priority to consult an Elder Law attorney. Planning may need to be taken earlier than previously seemed necessary. As always, with proper planning, it will still be possible to improve your situation, even if these new measures find their way into law.