State Proposals To Close Medi-Cal Asset Requirement Loopholes May Not Address Issue, Editorial States
The state should close loopholes that allow seniors with total assets that exceed eligibility requirements to qualify for nursing home benefits under Medi-Cal, but "it will not be quite so simple for the state to save the $150 million the Legislature is hoping for," according to a Los Angeles Times editorial (Los Angeles Times, 5/15). Under state eligibility requirements, seniors with assets of less than $2,319 qualify for nursing home benefits under Medi-Cal; seniors with spouses who do not receive Medi-Cal benefits and have assets of as much as $94,760 also qualify. Attorneys reportedly are advising seniors with assets that exceed the eligibility requirements on how to shift their assets to qualify for Medi-Cal nursing home benefits. Officials for the California Association of Homes and Services for the Aging estimate that the practice costs the state as much as $150 million per year. Nursing home reimbursements paid by the state have increased by 50% to $3.4 billion this year from $2.2 billion in 1994 (California Healthline, 5/6). The "fixes" proposed by the state would "capture some money that now hides in annuities and property transfers," but "estate lawyers will no doubt be seeking ways around any reforms before the ink is dry," the editorial states. The editorial recommends that the state increase the eligibility requirements and "stop pretending that people who have more than $2,319 in the bank ... can pay their own nursing home bills." In addition, the editorial recommends that the state allow seniors to pay for their nursing home care on a sliding scale, rather than "everything or nothing." According to the editorial, such actions would make "asset stashing ... less enticing" for seniors. "Medi-Cal was never intended to allow the ill elderly to use nursing home care as asset protection for their heirs," but "middle-class wage earners" should not have to "spend, or pretend to spend, all but $2,000 before getting a penny of help," the editorial concludes (Los Angeles Times, 5/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.