CA Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Asset Protection for Medi-Cal Enrollees Staying the Same For Now

Many Americans rely on the government to pay for their very expensive long term care costs.  The Federal and state governments usually work together to assist those in need through their respective Medicaid programs.  In California, these benefits are managed by Medi-Cal, which is a means tested program.  Only those that fall below a certain financial level qualify for these benefits in the state.

Even for those who are eligible, chances are that when the money becomes available they will be pursued.  If a Medi-Cal enrollee passes away, the state can take steps to collect the money they spent on that persons care from their estate or surviving spouse.  Right now, the only protection for the surviving spouse of a Medi-Cal enrollee is an exception that exists if collecting the money would cause the spouse substantial hardship. 

There has been a push in the California legislature to reform the Medi-Cal recovery rules.  Senate Bill 1124, proposed by Senator Ed Hernandez, was introduced but eventually rejected.  This bill would have revised the Medi-Cal recovery rules to allow only Federally required actions to collect expenditures.  It would have limited recovery to cases where the recipient used the benefits to cover nursing home care and disallowed recovery in cases of expenditures for necessary medical treatment.  The bill would have also barred recovery from surviving spouses’ estates.  In essence, the legislation would have made it much more difficult for the state to collect the money they laid out to Medi-Cal recipients.  Recently, the bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.  While he expressed that reform might be necessary in this area a better solution is needed.  As the state does not collect anywhere near what it expends on Medi-Cal benefits, the Governor reiterated that reform must be made with this is mind.  

If you or a loved one are having trouble paying for long term care or are interested in planning to avoid this hardship, speaking with an experienced Medi-Cal planning attorney is in your best interest.  Eligibility for Medi-Cal benefits can be difficult to understand and you should rely on a trusted advisor to explain all of the options to you.  Call Orange County, CA attorney Brian Chew at (949)347-5256 for a consultation today.


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