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I am a disabled 52 year old man. My primary health insurance is Medicare. Can my wife be held responsible for my medical bills?

Worcester, MA |

I am a disabled 52 year old man with chronic illnesses. My primary health insurance is Medicare. I lost medicaid as a supplemental because my wife makes too much income at work. If I were to have to go into a nursing home and medicare didn't cover the cost , would my wife be held responsible for any of my debt? If so,Would my wife's home and 401k's be in jeopardy of being taken for any debt resolution? If my wife's income, home,401k's and any other assets are vulnerable to the abovementioned scenario, are there insurances available to protect against this?

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Filed under: Lien Estates Nursing homes
Attorney answers 1


I am a Massachusetts atttorney and this isn't my area of specialty, but I do know a bit about the law regarding these issues.

In MA nursing homes have homeowners sign liens when they enter the facility. This agreement allows the patient to continue to receive treatment regardless of cost. The bad part is that the Medicare lien on the property stays on the property after the person's death. This means that your wife could not sell the property without having to pay off that Medicare lien first.

This situation happened to a friend of mine whose aunt lived in a nursing home for years then passed away. My friend lived,and lives now, in the 2-family that the aunt owned. Under the law he is not able to use the property to bring in income (rent the other floor) because of the Medicare lien. Other than that, the lien on the property does not affect him at all. In his case, he lives in a depressed area and no one is trying to force a sale to pay off the lien.

What some people do when they have these concerns is to meet with an estate planning attorney who can advise on trusts and whether it would be wise to transfer your share of the house to younger family members now, before serious health problems arise.

Kara O'Donnell
Law Office of Kara O'Donnell
Quincy, MA

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