Health & Human Services

Little-Known Aspect of Medicaid Causing Some to Opt Against Coverage

January 27, 2014
 

Add this to the scary but improbable things people are hearing could happen because of the new federal health-care law: After you die, the state could come after your house.

The concern arises from a long-standing but little-known aspect of Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health coverage to millions of low-

income Americans. In certain cases, a state can recoup its medical costs by putting a claim on a deceased person’s assets.

This is not an issue for people buying private coverage on online marketplaces. And experts say it is unlikely that the millions of people in more than two dozen states becoming eligible for Medicaid under the program’s expansion will be affected by this rule. But the fear that the government could one day seize their homes is deterring some people from signing up.

“I was leaning toward not getting Medicaid, because there is somewhat of a stigma,” said Steve Olin, 60, a former copy editor from Eureka, Ill. “Then, when I heard about the estate recovery, I was really sure.”

It is the latest anxiety to spring from the health-care law. After years of speculation about the sprawling legislation, which affects everything from the way people see their doctors to their finances, it is now a reality — and in some cases is causing fear.

Some worries stem from the law’s unintended consequences, such as last year’s cancellations of health plans by insurers whose old policies did not meet the new standards. The flare-up shook public confidence in the administration’s forthrightness about the impact of the measure .

Opponents of the law have held up its flaws, and they have embraced the Medicaid issue as well. “State can seize your assets to pay for care after you’re forced into Medicaid by Obamacare,” warned a writer on the conservative site HotAir.com. Another conservative blog, RedState.com, warned of a “Medicaid asset-seizure bonanza.”

Asset recovery predates the health-care law, but the legislation makes it apply to a larger pool of people.

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