GEORGIA: Establishes Estate Recovery Program For Medicaid
Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Spotlight" columnist Ann Hardie writes that Georgia's Medicaid program "plans to establish an Estate Recovery Program" by June 1 to "recoup some of the money it has paid out for long-term care by seizing the assets of" Medicaid recipients. Hardie is critical of the decision, despite state officials' contention that a 1993 federal law requires "states to recover Medicaid funds by going after the estates of beneficiaries." She notes that Texas and Michigan are vowing never to comply with the law, a stand she says the federal government appears willing to overlook since the Health Care Financing Administration has met the "$395 million goal" it set for the law. "Georgia also could refuse," Hardie writes, but instead it "plans to contract the work of seizing estates to a private entity that most likely will be paid a percentage of the money it recovers."
Though the 1993 federal law was intended to stop well-to-do seniors from transferring their assets to family members in order to qualify for Medicaid, Hardie says the estate recovery plan "will do nothing to prevent that abuse. In fact, it would punish those who do not have estate planners or the foresight to beat the system, state and federal officials acknowledge." Advocates for seniors' rights, Hardie writes, "worry that older people will forgo medical services because they don't want to risk losing their homes." "People in their 80s and 90s have worked very hard for these homes and they mean a lot to them," said Georgia Division of Aging Services attorney Natalie Thomas. But Medicaid officials defend their move, with Department of Medical Assistance spokesperson Laura Marshall saying, "We simply felt that we could put off obeying a federal mandate for only so long." Marshall said, "If people feel strongly that this is not a good law, then they should write to their person in Congress" (4/27).