More than ever, it is becoming increasingly hard for families to pay for the medical treatment necessary to enable elderly parents to stay in their homes. When all else fails and a parent needs 24/7 skilled nursing care that the family cannot provide, the heart-wrenching decision is made to place the parent into a nursing home. Did you know that nursing home care can cost more than $6,000 per month in Arkansas? Because nursing home care is so expensive, many families turn to Medicaid to pay for some of that cost.

Medicaid cannot take a person’s home, but can seek repayment from the decedent’s estate after death.

The type of Medicaid that pays for nursing home care is called Long Term Care Medicaid (LTC). This Medicaid assistance comes at its own cost. If a person who is 55 or older receives Long-Term Care Medicaid, when that person passes away, Medicaid can file a claim in the person’s probate case for the full amount of nursing costs that Medicaid paid.

However, whether the person is single or married, Medicaid cannot take possession of the person’s home. The person keeps title and possession of the home while living. Medicaid’s recovery right is limited to filing a claim after that person dies, and that claim is for repayment only. Nonetheless, it is possible that a judge will order the home to be sold, to pay the debts of the estate, including Medicaid’s claim.

Medicaid may waive or reduce it’s claim.

There are times when Medicaid will not seek repayment for nursing home costs. Medicaid cannot seek repayment if the person is survived by a spouse, has a living child 21 years old or younger, or has a child of any age who is blind or disabled.

Medicaid may voluntarily waive its claim if the recovery would create an undue hardship for other surviving family members, or if recovery is not cost effective for Medicaid. Additionally, you may be able to negotiate a smaller clam amount.

Can I avoid repayment to Medicaid by not opening a decedent’s estate?

Probably not. Medicaid’s right to recover is well established under Arkansas law and federal law. Part of the money that Arkansas Medicaid recovers is repaid to the federal Medicaid program. Additionally, the only way to pass “clear title” of a deceased person’s home, is through the probate process. It is not in the heirs’ best interests to have “cloudy title” to the home.

The Bottom Line

Medicaid cannot take possession of a person’s home. Unless Medicaid waives its claim, Medicaid can claim an interest in a decedent’s estate, and seek full or partial repayment of the costs it paid for that person’s nursing home care.

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