Saturday, February 22, 2014

Oopsie! Their Bad

(Cartoon by Eric Pertin (3/16/10) and found here.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I have to admit that the Tea Partiers occasionally made some sense, at least on some issues.  One of the characters from Mr. Pertin's cartoon really hit home after I read a news article yesterday.

From the L.A. Times:

...in certain cases, Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid, will be able to collect repayment for healthcare services from the estate after a recipient dies, including placing government liens on property. ...

Despite government assurances that the vast majority of Medi-Cal patients needn't worry about the state trying to claim their assets, growing numbers of new enrollees under Obamacare are voicing concerns after reading warnings on healthcare notices that after their deaths the state "must seek repayment of Medi-Cal benefits" for services provided once they turn 55.

Some advocates for the elderly say the "estate recovery provisions" of Medi-Cal could threaten family finances and discourage people from signing up for health insurance. [Emphasis added]

How's that for a chilling bit of news for recipients of MediCal and their family?  The article continued with assurances from a state spokesman that the move isn't as terrible as it sounds.

Established in 1993, the federal government's estate recovery program was chiefly intended to recoup outlays for lengthy nursing home stays and skilled nursing care, which are among its biggest expenses.

But California and other states have exercised an option in limited instances to recover payment for medical services, from doctor visits and surgeries to managed care payments and drugs.

Norman Williams, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Care Services in Sacramento, says only a tiny fraction of the 9 million patients using Medi-Cal will be affected by cost recovery actions against their estates. Less than a quarter of a percent of the more than $600 billion the state spent on Medi-Cal over the past 20 years has been recovered, he said.

Only costs incurred for patients 55 to 64 years old are involved, he noted. And collection efforts will not begin while there is a living spouse, minor children or surviving dependents with disabilities. Families also may apply for hardship exemptions.  [Emphasis added]

I don't find that explanation all that reassuring, quite frankly.  People who qualify for Medi-Cal have to jump through all sorts of hoops just to qualify.  To find out that their meager estates are going to be wiped out by the state has to come as just one more blow to a beaten down family.

Additionally, given the fact that the state has only recovered a "tiny fraction", why do they bother?  I'm sure that the procedures and paperwork involved cost the state at least the amount recovered, probably more.  It just doesn't make any fiscal sense.  Surely the state has other ways to save money, like cutting some of the tax breaks given to corporations.

You think?



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