FOX 17 questions MDCH about Medicaid and estate recovery

LANSING, Mich. — Fred Martin Jr. took his concern about becoming homeless to his front lawn. He erected several signs which caught the attention of the FOX 17 Problem Solvers.

“I got no money. I’m a sick man. I guess I’ll be homeless, wouldn’t I?” he told us in an interview.

His daughter is the only person named on the deed in his Holland home. Margaret Goen passed away last October from Pick’s disease.
Martin, who has his own health problems, moved in to take care of her. She also received Medicaid assistance.

Now that she’s gone, the state is looking to recoup $47,000 in Medicaid expenses from Goen’s estate. Martin said the home is the only way that debt could be covered. However, he said he saved the state hundreds of thousands of dollars by not placing Goen in a nursing home. He has been in this fight for most of the year.

After FOX 17 viewers voiced their frustration online, we went to Lansing to the Michigan Department of Community Health for answers.

“There is a potential for him to receive an exemption,” Angela Minicuci, the MDCH spokesperson said.

She said Martin may qualify for what’s called a “temporary hardship exemption,” but more documentation is needed.

“But we are confident that we will be able to find a resolution that will be agreeable for both
parties,” Minicuci said.

She added the goal “is to definitely make sure that he doesn’t lose anything that could potentially put him in
a bad situation, but we also have to maintain the integrity of the estate recovery program.”

Medicaid is taxpayer funded. However, under the estate recovery program, a Medicaid recipient’s estate must pay the state back when he or she dies.
That’s a federal mandate.

This week, FOX 17 caught up with elder law attorney Ken Puzycki who explained the hardship exemption.

“If the value of the house is less than 50% of the average selling price of a house in the county. Medicaid won’t go after it. Or more appropriately the state of Michigan won’t go after it,” he said.

FOX 17 crunched the numbers, according to zillo.com, the average home in Ottawa County sells for $152,200.
The state equalized value of Martin’s home is $34,000. That would mean he should qualify.
It appears Martin was caught off guard with all of this.

Minicuci said mechanisms are in place to make sure that’s not the case.

“Like with any insurance program, you are… made aware of all the different facets of the coverage you’re receiving,” Minicuci said.

“So yes, beneficiaries are made aware of the estate recovery process, and we encourage residents to make sure they’re working with family members so that they’re also aware of the program requirements, so that is something we do try to educate our beneficiaries on,” she explained.

To avoid being caught off guard, education is the best defense.

Here is a link to Medicaid – Estate Recovery Program information:  http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-2943_4860_56113_58553—,00.html

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