The state issued notice Monday that it will amend its estate recovery policy to avoid “unintended consequences” for people who enroll in Medicaid for health care under the expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act.
A story in The Seattle Times Monday detailed how some low-income Washington state residents applying for health insurance through Medicaid were upset when they encountered the rule, buried in fine print in the application process, and a number contacted state officials or lawmakers.
Officials from the state Health Care Authority say they will align state rules with longstanding federal policy, which requires states to place liens on property held by Medicaid clients age 55 and over to recover costs for long-term care and related medical services from their estates.
The problem arose in part because Washington expanded its estate recovery policy in 2004 to apply to all medical services for Medicaid clients. The agency said the new rule was “largely non-controversial” for most of that time, but that “new concerns were raised recently due to the different population of uninsured, non-disabled adults now being served under Medicaid expansion.”
While the governor’s office had to clear the way for possibly as much as $3 million in lost budgeted revenue, Health Care Authority Director Dorothy Teeter said she anticipates the change will have minimal lost revenue since nearly all recoveries have been for long-term care expenses.
“An outdated policy was producing significant concern from families newly eligible for Medicaid,” Teeter said in the statement released Monday from HCA. “Changing this old policy was simply the right thing to do after hearing from many in our community who were questioning whether to sign up for coverage at all.”
By making the change, said State Medicaid Director MaryAnne Lindeblad, “we are removing an additional perceived barrier to cost-effective coverge for uninsured Washingtonians.”
To make the change, the state will file an emergency rule to amend WAC 182-527-2742, and the state will amend its contract with the federal government. HCA spokesman Jim Stevenson said he expect a draft rule to be produced within days.