How House bill H.R. 181 could affect Medicaid programs

Georgia residents may have heard that on Feb. 7, members of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee voted 19 to 13 in endorsing H.R. 181 after a detailed review session. If passed, the bill would change the way people qualify for state Medicaid programs. The bill was originally introduced on Jan. 3 by Oklahoma congressman Markwayne Mullin and Virginia congressman Morgan Griffith. During the review session, Rep. Griffith said he and Rep. Mullen plan to amend the bill to ensure it only affects annuities that were paid for with marital property.

According to reports, the bill could specifically affect the way state Medicaid programs calculate couples' annuities regarding nursing home care benefit eligibility status. Medicaid, which is funded by states as well as the federal government, subsidizes nursing home care for eligible individuals who meet state rules. Under H.R. 181, state Medicare programs would change the way income from certain annuities is assessed if one spouse is at home and the other one is receiving nursing home care. Instead of the annuity being deemed owned solely by the stay-at-home spouse, H.R. 181 would require state Medicaid programs to include 50 percent of particular annuities from the total assets belonging to the institutionalized spouse.

Long-term care insurance providers have been in favor of attempting to tighten Medicaid eligibility rules, and other supporters believe that the change could improve the way high-asset individuals are able to protect themselves from long-term care risks. The bill could also reduce Medicaid savings by hundreds of millions of dollars, according to some Republican supporters of the bill.

Many people rely on Medicaid for long-term care. However, some people might wish to gift some of their assets to their loved ones, but doing so might result in penalties. An experienced elder law attorney could help people understand Medicaid qualification guidelines, especially if H.R. 181 is enacted.

Source: Life Health Pro, "House panel marks up Medicaid planning annuity bill", Allison Bell, Feb. 7, 2017

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