Property Listed for Sale Ruled Available as Countable Resource for Medicaid Eligibility

Rural cabin in the woods.The Ohio Court of Appeals affirms the denial of retroactive Medicaid benefits where the applicant owned real property listed for sale but was unable to sell it, concluding the property was “available” as a countable resource. Chamberlain v. Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, 2022 Ohio 2309 (Ohio Ct. App. 2022, AC-210145, July 1, 2022).

Mr. Isaac Harrell resided in a nursing facility in Cincinnati, Ohio. His Medicaid representative applied for benefits on his behalf in February 2017, retroactive to November 2016. The Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (HCJFS) approved Medicaid benefits beginning in September 2017, but denied retroactive benefits for the 10 months between November 2016 and August 2017. HCJFS determined that Mr. Harrell’s countable resources — including property worth about $100,000 that had been on the market but did not sell until September 2017— exceeded the $2,000 resource threshold for Medicaid benefits.

Following two unsuccessful appeals, Mr. Harrell passed away. Upon Mr. Harrell’s death, Mr. Jared B. Chamberlain appealed the decisions to the Ohio Court of Appeals as special administrator of Harrell’s estate.

Mr. Chamberlain maintained that a Medicaid applicant’s resources must be “available” to be a “countable resource” for eligibility determinations and that Mr. Harrell’s inability to sell his property made it unavailable and uncountable. The Court of Appeals finds that, in Ohio, a Medicaid applicant’s property is a “countable resource” despite the applicant’s inability to secure a buyer.

Mr. Chamberlain also argued that a federal law carves out an exception for Medicaid applicants unable to sell their property. The court overrules, citing previous cases finding that “Ohio courts have squarely rejected the grafting of [this federal regulation] onto Medicaid eligibility,” which is a state responsibility. In addition, although the Ohio Court of Appeals recognized in a separate, recent case that another Medicaid applicant, in making a “reasonable effort” to sell her property, could exclude that property as a countable resource, the court points out that, in Mr. Chamberlain’s case, he provides “no evidence of reasonable efforts in the record.”

Lastly, the court overrules Mr. Chamberlain’s claim that Ohio had failed to submit an amended Medicaid plan to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, stating there is “nothing in the record that suggests Ohio’s Medicaid plan is noncompliant.”

The court affirms the trial court’s judgment.

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