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ELA Member Criticizes Texas Estate Recovery Proposal

  • November 9th, 2004

An ElderLawAnswers member attorney in Texas is among those raising concerns about the state's new estate recovery law.

Texas is one of the last states to develop estate recovery rules, which federal law requires and which allow states to file claims against the estates of those who received Medicaid coverage of nursing home care after the recipients die.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued proposed rules last spring. Under those rules, the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program would exempt $50,000 of a homestead's appraised value and would not file liens upon or seize homes. The rules also would apply only to those who seek Medicaid coverage on or after the date the program begins.

Patricia Sitchler, a certified elder law attorney in San Antonio and an ElderLawAnswers member, told the Valley Morning Star newspaper that her clients are very concerned about what the law could do to their family homes, farms and heirlooms as they grow old and need Medicaid.

Sitchler has requested several changes to the rules, including giving more time for families to respond to Medicaid estate recovery notices after the Medicaid recipient's death. She said a proposed 30- or 45-day wait period is not enough time for a grieving family that has more pressing issues to cope with.

Sitchler is also concerned that families afraid of losing their homes after an elderly Medicaid recipient dies will not seek care for their loved ones.

"The exploitation is just going to be rampant," Sitchler said.

The rules had been slated to take effect January 1st, but the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) refused to certify them on the grounds that they were too lenient. After the Commission toughened up the rules, CMS approved them for publication. A Commission spokesperson said final rules will be posted in the next week and public comments will be accepted for 30 days afterwards. The rules will then likely go into effect in March or April, the spokesperson said.

For the full Valley Morning Star article, click here.

Visit the Commission's Medicaid site at: http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/medicaid/index.html

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Last Modified: 11/09/2004

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