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Deal signs bill to block Medicaid access to estates

Governor Nathan Deal
Governor Nathan Deal
Governor Nathan Deal

ATLANTA – Advocates are celebrating the signing of a bill they say will ease the financial burden on the families of deceased Medicaid recipients.
Gov. Nathan Deal has approved a bill that blocks the state Department of Community Health from pursuing the first $25,000 of a recipient’s estate as part of the state’s Medicaid recovery process.
Previously, only an estate worth less than $25,000 was off limits. For estates with a value greater than $25,000, the whole estate could be claimed.
The issue fell on Sen. John Wilkinson’s radar after a constituent received a $79,000 bill when her mother-in-law, who had dementia, passed away after living in a nursing home for several years.
The deceased parent’s estate consisted of her home, which was worth about $83,000.
Since the estate was worth more than $25,000, nearly all of it was wiped out by the recovery process – which was a shock to the woman’s family, according to the Georgia Council on Aging, which advocated for the bill.
“We see this as an inequity, a fairness issue,” Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) said to his colleagues during the legislative session.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must still sign off on the change for the new law to take effect.
If the federal government approves it, the change could stop the state from recovering as much as $1 million annually, according to state budget officials. For example, the state recovered about $4.1 million from the estates of Medicaid recipients last year. The change would have cut into that by about $600,000.
Both chambers unanimously approved the change earlier this year. Deal signed the bill this month.
States are required to forego estate recoveries when undue hardship would result, according to the Georgia Council on Aging. But states have discretion to decide what constitutes to hardship.

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