Medicaid Estate Recovery Thwarted

Laurie Glandt Steiner

Practice Area:Elder Law

Outcome:We saved a client's home from Estate Recovery

Description:Recently, we represented a couple for the wife's Medicaid eligibility. We assisted the husband in spending and saving assets in order for the wife to eventually qualify for Medicaid. We successfully achieved Medicaid eligibility for her. Her husband was very pleased that he no longer had to pay $7500 monthly on the nursing home for her. He was able to keep his house, his car and just over $100,000. Unfortunately she died about a year after she finally received Medicaid benefits. In Ohio, the attorney general's office is very aggressive in trying to recover money and assets at a Medicaid recipient's death, even to the point of pushing beyond the limits of the law. Here, the recovery unit sent a letter to the husband telling him that they had placed a lien on his home for the amount of money they had paid out in Medicaid benefits for his late wife. They threatened to foreclose on the house if he did not immediatelty pay the amount due, $72, 750. He was terrified of losing the house since he didn't have enough cash to pay the bill. The letter even said they would take check, cash or credit cards! He called us in a panic. We contacted the Estate Recovery Unit and reminded them of the law. They are not allowed to undertake estate recovery from the surviving spouse. They are not allowed to write such threatening letters. They are not allowed to place a lien on a home while the surviving spouse is alive. Once these points of law were pointed out to them, they backed off. Plus, Medicaid Estate Recovery may not even be able to attach the remaining assets at the husband's death. We have not yet addressed that. Our client was so relieved. However, for every client we are able to help, there are way too many people who believe the attorneys from Estate Recovery who send these letters, and simply pay off the debt. The state does it because people do pay without knowing better and because they are scared.