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Medicaid Estate Recovery Program can seize assets

When Medicaid cares for someone in their own home in Texas, they might run up a tab, unbeknownst to the involved parties. Family members could be responsible to pay related expenses after a person's death, which can total tens of thousands of dollars or more. The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) sometimes tries to claim funds if the deceased person owned a home, meaning that a person could lose their home or other assets if their loved one receives long-term care Medicaid benefits.  Despite Medicaid eligibility guidelines, MERP can file a claim against the estate, and relatives might have no idea that the person owed money to the program.

Medicaid has the authority to attempt to recover any medical expenses they pay out for nursing facilities, hospital treatment, home- or community-based services, prescription medications and even insurance premiums. If no other assets are available, they could file a lien against the residence. However, they will not collect more money than what is available in the estate and there are a number of various types of waivers that would exempt a family from having to pay back Medicaid.

In order to avoid Medicaid draining all of a person's funds, family members should look into several options. They might consider purchasing a long-term care policy, or they can look at other savings and investment plans to have on hand if they do need extended care. Instead of spending the money on paid help, they might decide to share the responsibilities of care or ask for help from local volunteers.

End-of-life expenses can be costly, especially if a person faces health-related issues. An elder-care lawyer might be able to provide family members with counsel regarding Medicaid planning that will work for their situation.

Source: The Spring Observer, "TONI KING: What is the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program?", Toni King, December 31, 2013

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