During the past several years the State of New York has searched for ways to save money in the Medicaid program. Last, month regulations were issued to implement overreaching recovery from the families of Medicaid recipients. That was not good news for families with an elderly member in need. But what happened this week is far, far worse.
On January 18, when Governor Cuomo revealed his 2012 budget, it contained a provision to eliminate spousal refusal. Mind you, you won't find those words anywhere in the budget proposal. The following is what is printed in the briefing book which summarizes the proposal:
The Executive Budget supports implementing health homes for complex high-cost recipients, investments in primary care and affordable housing, and the continued move to care management for all Medicaid recipients, which is expected to be completed in 2015-16. A cost neutral package of new initiatives is also proposed through the MRT to make critical investments in health care delivery, including funding for increased payments to essential community providers, tobacco cessation efforts and maternal child health initiatives. These investments are balanced by savings resulting from improvements in benefits design, more appropriate treatment outcomes and compliance with Federal law that requires that legally-responsible relatives, living in the same household as a Medicaid applicant, have their income and resources counted in determining Medicaid eligibility. [emphasis added]
The financial disaster looming on the horizon is not pretty. If a spouse requires nursing home care, they must exhaust all of their assets in excess of approximately $111,000 (the residence still remains exempt) and $2,750 in monthly income. Everything else must be used to pay for care bills. This can even extend to IRAs and other retirement accounts.
Imagine, a married couple who owns a house on Long Island will have only $33,000 per year to pay normal living expenses such as food, utilities, clothing, maintenance and REAL ESTATE TAXES! This may force the sale of the residence, which may cost them the exemption and cause that money to be spent.
Note that these numbers are set by the government on a national basis. The amount that can be retained is the same in Iowa as it is in New York. If you have any ideas about how a couple living on Long Island can afford real estate taxes of $8,000 - $10,000 with an annual income of $33,000, please send them to me, because I can’t figure it out either.
As newly-installed President of the New York State Chapter of NAELA (National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys), my primary goal is to mobilize our members to fight these draconian measures.