Medicaid Asset Transfers Are Debated in USA Today

The fairness of current laws that allow older Americans to keep or transfer certain assets and still qualify for Medicaid coverage of long-term care was debated in the July 7 issue of USA Today.

In an editorial, USA Today claims that while many states are willing to reduce Medicaid costs by limiting benefits and enrollment for poor beneficiaries, they are sparing many elderly recipients who "hide" their "wealth" so they can qualify for Medicaid coverage of long-term care. Most states have been reluctant to tighten the legal "loopholes" -- including transferring assets '“ that allow this to happen, the editorial says. Connecticut, Massachusetts and Minnesota each have asked the federal government to permit them to implement stricter Medicaid eligibility requirements, but the federal government "has been slow to act on the requests," USA Today claims.

"[W]hatever the actual extent of the abuses," the newspaper says, "they undermine the purpose of Medicaid -- to help the truly needy. . . . The need to rein in spending does not require states to make the poor suffer even more so those who are better off can protect their inheritances."

An Elder Law Attorney Responds

In an accompanying opinion piece, William J. Browning, an Ohio elder law attorney and president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, says that "state efforts to restrict Medicaid nursing-home eligibility for senior citizens is tantamount to blaming the victim while avoiding the fundamental problem faced by the nation." That problem, Browning asserts, is our society''s failure to cover long-term care services for those unable to afford or qualify for long-term care insurance.

Browning predicts that efforts to restrict the access of the elderly to Medicaid coverage of nursing home care will force many ''''well spouses'''' to choose divorce to keep themselves out of poverty.

Browning also notes that the savings quoted by state officials in pursuing nursing-home restrictions is "not supported by the data. The facts indicate that a small percentage of middle-class elderly citizens engage in estate planning to limit financial risk of a long-term stay in a nursing home. In Connecticut, the state''s figures show that only a small percentage of citizens engaged in this type of planning and that the average amount saved by the family was in the range of $30,000."

Browning says there is a simple answer to the national problem of long-term care coverage: expand Medicare to include it. "That might result in an increase in Medicare premiums," he says, "but it would fix the nation''s fatally flawed system for providing long-term care benefits."

To read the USA Today editorial, reprinted on, click here. (Article may be only temporarily available.)

To read William J. Browning''s opinion piece, reprinted on click here. (Article may be only temporarily available.)