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State delays enforcement of medicaid payments from the dead

health care graphic
health care graphic

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  A state legislative leader says new policies for recovering Medicaid payments from the estates of dead couples are on hold while they’re being reviewed. A spokeswoman for Republican finance co-chair John Nygren tells the A-P that “concerns were raised” about new recovery measures placed into the state budget. It gives the Health Services agency until the middle of 2015 to submit more exact proposals to the finance panel for approval.

Federal law requires states to recover Medicaid payments from a couple’s estate for long-term care, after a surviving spouse dies. The state budget measure goes much farther, tapping marital property owned for five years before a husband-or-wife applies for funding for programs like Family-Care. The state can also seize property from trusts. Also the new law ends the practice of selling businesses for less than their market values to qualify for long-term care funding – even if the businesses are being sold to their children.

State health officials defend the changes, saying that surviving spouses can keep control of marital property for as long as they live. They say more people are setting up trusts to protect assets from legal probate fights to escape the state’s recovery efforts – and the result is that taxpayers are covering more people’s long-term care just so inheritances can be left to others.

Family attorneys are concerned that the state is unfairly prohibiting people from leaving inheritances for their children. Eau Claire attorney Peter Grosskopf says more couples may consider divorce, to try and protect at least one spouse’s assets to there’s something left to pass on. 

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