Georgia, Amid Criticism, Adopts Harsh Estate Recovery Rules

The Georgia Department of Community Health has approved aggressive new rules that allow the state to recover from the estates of Medicaid long-term care beneficiaries, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Georgia is one of the last states to implement so-called estate recovery rules, which are required by federal law. But it wasn't the federal law (which was not being enforced), but a tight budget that drove state officials to launch estate recovery. State officials have said they expect to collect $5 million in the first year of the program.

Under the new final rules, which take effect August 1, estates under $25,000 will be exempted from estate recovery. But the rules will allow Georgia to reach beyond the deceased Medicaid recipient's probate estate and recover from real property "passing by reason of joint tenancy, right of survivorship, reserved life estate, survivorship, trust, annuity, homestead or any other arrangement."

In some cases, the state also will place liens on homes before recipients die. Unlike Texas, which just finalized more lenient estate recovery rules of its own, Georgia will not exempt from estate recovery those Medicaid recipients who have been receiving long-term-care services at the time of the rule change. To meet its savings target, the state will try to recover spending on long-term care services back to August 2001.

Family members of nursing home residents have pointed out that their loved ones were not told their homes would be targeted when they were admitted to the facilities.

"The rules are extremely harsh, and they will discourage people from getting care they really need," said consumer health advocate Linda Lowe. "They will work hardships on families who really don't have that much."

In many situations, Lowe said, a house worth $50,000 is the only asset of value left in the family. "You've got to think of the consequences for low-income families who actually need the house to maintain a stable home," she said.

The state said it expects legal challenges to the program in the first two years

To read the article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, click here. (Free registration required.)

To download the final rules in PDF format, click here, or visit the Department of Community Health's Web site at:

(If you do not have the free PDF reader installed on your computer, download it here.)