Friday, August 28, 2015
Medicaid Eligibility: Ohio Supreme Court Addresses Effect of Post-Admission, Pre-Eligibility Transfer of Home
One year and six days after hearing oral argument in Estate of Atkinson v. Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State in a Medicaid eligibility case involving transfer of the community home. The majority, in a 4-3 vote, ruled that "federal and state Medicaid law do not permit unlimited transfers of assets from an institutional spouse to a community spouse after the CSRA (Community Spouse Resource Allowance) has been set." However, the court also remanded the case to the lower court for recalculation of the penalty period under narrow, specific provisions of state and federal law.
Attorneys representing families in "Medicaid planning" scenarios will be disappointed in the ruling, because it rejected "exempt asset" and "timing" arguments that would have permitted some greater sheltering of assets after the ill spouse's admission to the nursing home.
At the same time, the complex reasoning and specific facts (involving transfer of the family home out of the married couple's "revocable trust" to the community spouse), will likely create additional business for elder law specialists, especially as the majority distinguished the 2013 federal appellate court ruling in Hughes v. McCarthy, that permitted use of spousal transfers using "annuities."
The dissent was strongly worded:
It is clear that the law treats the marital home very carefully to prevent spousal impoverishment at the end of life. And that is the public policy we should be embracing. Based on the plain language of the federal statutes and the Ohio Administrative Code, as well as the holding of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Hughes v. McCarthy, 734 F.3d 473, I would hold that the transfer of the home between spouses prior to Medicaid eligibility being established is not an improper transfer and is not subject to the CSRA cap.
To view the oral argument of the case before the Ohio Supreme Court, see here.