This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, December 23rd, 2013:
When Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) asked presidential candidate Barack Obama about his tax plan on October 12th, 2008, Obama created a sound byte that reverberated around the world, and reverberates still: “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” What no one could possibly have known at the time, however, was that Obama would be taking from the poor and keeping it. It’s a perversion of Robin Hood, and it’s called Medicaid.
Sophia Prins and her partner, Gary Balhorn, were getting ready to sign up for Medicaid in the state of Washington when Sophia started reading the fine print. Imagine her surprise when she read: “If you’re over 55, the state of Washington will bill your estate for your health expenses when you die.” She was surprised again when she later discovered that the state of Washington would be forwarding those proceeds to Washington DC.
Prins, an artist, and Balhorn, a tango instructor, tried to sign up for one of the Obamacare plans on the Washington state health insurance exchange, but their incomes were so low that they were automatically referred to Medicaid. That’s when they discovered that Medicaid was not “free” after all, but was in fact a secured loan using their home as collateral to be paid off when they die.
Medicaid has always demanded that the states go after the estates of Medicaid recipients, but without much success simply because there were so few assets. Besides, most states provided for the homestead exemption, and an entire cottage industry sprang up showing such people how to “spend down” what remained so that they could qualify for Medicaid.
Along came Obamacare, however, which eliminated the asset requirement while raising the income level to qualify by Medicaid. Now people with low incomes, but with some real property, like Prins and Balhorn, are in danger of having their assets evaporate in a mist at their deaths.
But Prins and Balhorn had an option: they could get married. Their combined modest incomes were just sufficient for them to qualify for one of the heavily subsidized Obamacare plans instead. So they got married. Said Sofia:
We’re happy to be getting married. Unfortunately not everyone has such an elegant solution to the problem.
No, they don’t. Consider John and Mary, clients of an elder law attorney in Pennsylvania. According to their attorney:
When John came back from Korea he took over working the family farm. Eventually, John and his wife Mary inherited the farm from John’s parents. John and Mary were always “dirt poor.”
In 2000 Mary’s health began to decline due to Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Everyone in the family pitched in to care for Mary and keep her home. In 2003, after three years of struggle, the family needed some outside help. They applied for home care that was paid for in part by Medicaid. This extra help, combined with the ongoing care by John and the boys and their wives, allowed Mary to stay at home for another full year.
In 2006 John died of a heart attack. Without John’s support in caring for Mary, the family was no longer able to care for Mary at home. She moved to a local nursing facility. The family didn’t have the cash to fully afford the nearly $8,000 a month cost and Medicaid benefits were needed.
Mary died in January 2009. She was 84. Three weeks later her sons received a letter in the mail from the Government. The letter said Pennsylvania was owed $171,386 for the Medicaid that was provided for Mary’s care, both at home and in the nursing facility.
The boys are going to have to find some way to pay off this state lien. But they don’t have this kind of money. Most likely, the farm will have to be sold.
And where do those proceeds go? Under the law Pennsylvania is required to send whatever they are able to capture to Washington.
That’s what Barry Drake learned the hard way. Barry lived with his mother who owned her own home but required Medicaid assistance towards the end of her life. When she died, Kentucky took the house and sold it as payback. When Drake brought suit to attempt to reclaim it, he told the judge they “took the house … to be sold and pay those expenses.” They also took the washer and dryer, their lawn mower, gardening tools, kitchen appliances – virtually anything in the house that had any intrinsic value. Imagine Barry’s surprise when his lawsuit was dismissed, allowing Kentucky (and Washington) to sell her house and keep the money.
There are 15 million people about to learn about the fine print. As Beth Duffy wrote in her expose:
States must pursue recovering costs for medical assistance consisting of nursing home or other long-term institutional services, home- and community-based services, hospital and prescription drug services … and any other items covered by the Medicaid State Plan.
At a minimum, states must recover from assets that pass through probate … at a maximum, states may recover any assets of the deceased recipient. (emphasis added)
Reagan advisor Paul Craig Roberts has been forwarding to anyone who would listen an article written by “a knowledgeable person who wishes to remain anonymous” entitled Obamacare: A Deception in which the author wrote:
Your estate is what you own when you die – your home and what’s in it, other real estate you may own, your bank account, annuities and so on.
[Under estate recovery] even if you have a will, your heirs are chopped liver.
Low-income people often have only one major asset – the home in which they live and, in some cases, this has been the family home through several generations.
What this boils down to is this: if you are put into Medicaid – congratulations! – you just got a mandated collateral loan if you use Medicaid benefits….
Compared to Obama, Robin Hood was a Boy Scout. At least – so the legend goes – Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave it to the poor. Obama, in his quest to distribute other people’s money for “the good of everybody,” has managed to create a perversion that allows the government to steal from the poor and keep it.
What’s worse, the language in the fine print of most applications for Medicaid are overlooked. Medicaid looks like “free” but, like a Venus Flytrap, is fatal to those entering.
Once again, the lesson of TANSTAAFL will be learned by millions: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
The Daily Kos: Estate Recovery – It’s Worse Than You Thought
The Daily Kos: Medicaid Estate Recovery + ACA: Unintended Consequences?
The Washington Times: Medicaid as a tax on the estates of the poor
Elder law attorney: Medicaid Estate Recovery – A Medicaid Death Tax
Barry Drake’s lawsuit: Drake v. Miller
Article forwarded by Paul Craig Roberts: Obamacare: A Deception
Beth Duffy: Estates could owe Medicaid