Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tennessee Medicaid wants special rights to take homes through estate recovery

To foot the bill for Mary and Lawrence Henkel's nursing home care, her children sold everything their parents owned except for the Donelson home the couple had lived in since 1967."That was my father's dying wish — to hold onto the house, live in it, take care of it," said Nashville resident Judy Clifford, 66, one of three Henkel children. "That's what he told me, and he gave the house to me."

Now TennCare wants to sell the home to help recoup the roughly $288,000 that the state says it paid to take care of Mary Henkel in the nursing home before she died in February 2003 at the age of 81. Her husband had passed away years earlier.  The Henkel children, who value the home at $110,000, aren't alone.

They're among families across the state being asked to give up the family home as TennCare redoubles its efforts to recoup some of the roughly $1 billion a year that the state pays for nursing home and other long-term care. State officials say they're merely doing what is required by the federal government. And they point out that Tennessee isn't nearly as aggressive as some other states in recouping the money spent on long-term care.  It's a common practice for TennCare, the state's expand-ed Medicaid program, to go after the family homes of nursing home patients who have passed away.

Generally, by the time a nursing home or long-term-care recipient gets on TennCare, the patient's family has spent down all of the family assets, except for the home. The state is stepping up its efforts to get properties on at least two fronts. In April, TennCare hired an Atlanta-based outside consulting firm to help find properties that deceased long-term-care recipients passed on to their heirs without going through probate. And when it does find the property, it's going to force open an estate.  Under Tennessee law, the property can pass to the heirs without going through a probate court. But if TennCare finds out about the property, it can petition the court to force open an estate, which is what happened in the Henkel case [even though the statute of limitations had run on its time to enforce its claims]. The Tenncare Bureau also is looking to the state's highest courts to extend the time that it has to petition a court to get the property.  State law says all creditors have 12 months to file a claim on an estate....

Read more here.

Ed:  Get ready, this is only the tip of the iceburg.  Middle class elderly who are unfortunate enough to need long term car can forget about leaving anything of value to their children--including things like the farm that has been in the family for 150 years or the home in which their children were raised.  That's what estate recovery is all about.  Thank the Republican Congress, the long term care insurance industry, and Democrats who haven't been paying


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