Tennessee residents who cannot afford to pay for their medical care benefit from the TennCare program. However, if there are assets in the estate, TennCare seeks to recover them.
The number of estate recovery cases from TennCare has jumped since 2014—by 30 percent—and the amount of money recovered has grown from just under $13 million to nearly $27 million. The assets recovered allow the program to continue to provide much-needed medical care. However, there are people who get caught up in bad situations. Lisa Musgrave is one of them.
Mary Musgrave lived in her home for many years, and at one point, her daughter Lisa moved in to help take care of her. However, Lisa may be about to lose the home.
Mary was in a car accident and after ending up in a nursing home, she was forced to go on TennCare. She lived there for five years, Musgrave explained to News Channel 5 Nashville in the article, “Daughter to lose home after mother's death due to money owed to TennCare for nursing home care.” She died in the nursing home, and afterwards, the family got a bill from TennCare for more than $171,000.
This is what's called an estate recovery. State law requires the government to collect what the TennCare program spends on long term care for anyone 55 and older, after they die.
TennCare isn’t a government benefit program. It's not a grant or a gift. Rather, it's a loan and the loan is required to be paid back after death. While estate recovery isn’t new, three years ago, the program dedicated more resources to it. It has become more aggressive in pursuing its rights to recovery.
When Musgrave said she couldn't pay what was owed, she was informed by the program that she would have to sell Mary's home to come up with the money.
There are some situations in which TennCare will let a family stay in the house, such as when there's a surviving spouse, a child under 21, or a disabled child. Adult children are permitted to remain in the house if they lived with the parent and helped care for them for at least two years before the parent moved into the nursing home. However, in this instance, TennCare says Musgrave did not meet the requirements.
TennCare spent more than a billion dollars on nursing home care in 2018, and the state says estate recovery is critical for the program to continue.
Regardless of what state you live in, planning to protect your home needs to be done with a qualified estate or elder law attorney. There are strict rules and regulations about state and federal program, and a local attorney will know the best way to protect your home, assets and family members. Don’t wait. Medicaid has a five-year look-back period, and there may be shorter time limits in other states. Make an appointment to speak with an estate planning attorney sooner than later.
Reference: News Channel 5 Nashville (March 18, 2019) “Daughter to lose home after mother's death due to money owed to TennCare for nursing home care”