Due to the expansion of Medi-Cal under ObamaCare, my wife and I are now covered by that program. But because both of us are over 55, Jerry can steal our house after we die to cover Medi-Cal’s expense of paying for our healthcare. A 1993 law gives states the option to take back all the money spent by Medi-Cal for the healthcare of recipients over 55 by billing the estate after the recipient (and spouse) die. Because California is taking advantage of this option, Medi-Cal for older people is effectively a long term loan.
SB 1124, a bill to fix the problem, has made its way through most of the legislature. If it passes, which is expected this week, Jerry has threatened to veto it to protect the state from the financial ruin of losing the $15 million it expects to collect by stealing the homes of other older Medi-Cal recipients who die over the next year. That $15 million is 1/100 of 1% of the state’s budget! At the end of this diary, I will ask you to contact Jerry Brown’s office and tell him to sign, not veto, SB 1124. But first, a few important details.
My wife and I signed up for Medi-Cal late last year with coverage to start on January 1 of this year. It was not until several months later that I read online that in California Medi-Cal is a long term loan program. Even if we remain healthy, the state will deduct the monthly fee for the managed care program that administers Medi-Cal. I even found a PDF of a brochure produced by the California Department of Healthcare Services (DHCS) that explained the details of how “estate recovery” works. I prefer the term legal theft to the Orwellian “estate recovery.”
At no point in the process of signing up were we notified that it was perfectly legal to steal our home from our children after we both die. When I called the Medi-Cal customer service line to ask about how to resign from Medi-Cal, they told me I was wrong and that the state could not and would not bill my estate. Mentioning the DHCS brochure I had in my possession made no difference in that assertion by the customer service rep and his supervisor.
In April, California Senator Ed Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee, introduced SB 1124, which limits so-called “estate recovery” to that which is mandated by Federal law, which is long-term care. The bill also prohibits collection from the estate of a surviving spouse of a Medi-Cal beneficiary. I started an on-line petition in support of the bill and, with the help of Moveon and the Courage Campaign, have gotten almost 1500 people to sign the petition.
Nearly every person I have ever talked to about Medi-Cal “estate recovery” is just as shocked as I am. Some of the things they have said and/or written to me about “estate recovery” include “unconscionable,” “unfair,” “appalling,” and an “ill-conceived asset-stripping scheme.”
Some of the people who signed the petition have told me their stories. Here are some:
- One woman is delaying gall bladder surgery rather than sign up for Medi-Cal. She turned 55 earlier this year, is on disability and cannot work, and will pay off her home mortgage later this year. Because her income is too low for the subsidies for private insurance that middle income people get, she is hoping to pay full price for health insurance when the open enrollment period for Obamacare begins in November.
- Others tell me that the process of signing up takes a long time, is cumbersome, and, like me, that nobody told them about “estate recovery” when they did sign up. And, like me, they found out about it later through their own research. There have even been cases where the family and beneficiaries first find out about Medi-Cal “estate recovery” after the recipient dies.
- Another woman explained that she had chosen to move back into her father’s home when he became very ill so she could take care of him. His healthcare was covered by Medi-Cal. She was able to work in addition to caring for him but put all her extra money into paying taxes, maintenance, and upkeep for the house. She has no money saved, but had assumed that she would be able to continue to live in the house after he dies. There is a hardship exemption, but it will not apply because she can work. Thousands of her dollars will be lost when he dies and the state steals his home that she will no longer inherit.
- Most ridiculous of all, a 62 year old man, who is an unemployed librarian with an MA in library science, broke his finger. It is all discolored from the injury. Rather than sign up for Medi-Cal so his finger could be taken care of by a doctor, he splinted it with a popsicle stick. He does not want to lose his house.
This past week, SB 1124 has completed the legislative process. It passed both houses unanimously; 78-0 in the Assembly and 33-0 in the Senate. As I said previously, the governor’s staff have said that they are recommending that SB 1124 be vetoed.
To overcome the opposition of the governor and his staff, I need you to act NOW by contacting Jerry Brown’s office and state your support for SB 1124. Here is the contact information (mail, phone, fax, email):
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Please act right away.
And please sign my petition in support of SB1124 at:
Public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.