CMS confirms that transfer penalty for Medicaid home care applicants starts to run at time of application

Followers of this blog know that when a person applies for Medicaid under the New Jersey MLTSS program or other state programs that pay for nursing homes, assisted living or home health care services, there is a 5-year look-back that is done by the agency to determine if a transfer penalty should be imposed for gifts made during the 5 years preceding the application. The penalty is a period of time in which the State won’t pay for the care. The greater the amount that was gifted, the longer the penalty period.

There has been a problem for years that was inadvertently created when the Medicaid law was amended by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (“the DRA”). The problem was caused by an interpretive guidance memo called State Medicaid Director Letter (SMDL #06-018) published on July 27, 2006 by CMS. The DRA itself specified that the start date of the penalty was to be “the later of (1) the month during or after which a transfer is made or (2) the date on which the individual is eligible for medical assistance under the State plan and would otherwise be receiving institutional level care services.” See Secn. 1917(c)(1)(D) of the Act. However, the 2006 explanatory SMDL stated that the start date was “…the date on which the individual is eligible for Medicaid and is receiving institutional level of care services.” (emphasis added). The problem was obvious — it created a catch-22 in which the penalty wouldn’t start to run until the individual was receiving services, yet no services could be provided until a penalty period had ended! Also, the memo was at odds with prior positions that applied resource rules and transfer penalty rules uniformly to people applying for Medicaid in different settings.

Well it only took 12 years, but the good news is that CMS has just published SMD # 18-004 which clarifies the point once and for all: the start date for applicants for home and community services is the date on which they’d be receiving services were it not for the penalty period. Here it is: CMS SMD # 18-004

Asset protection is feasible even when a person is right on the verge of applying for Medicaid. Houses and other assets can be protected with proper senior care planning. Call us first, to advise you and prepare your Medicaid application…. 732-382-6070

State efforts to impose work requirements for Medicaid benefits is subject of lawsuit

Under the federal Medicaid statute 42 USC 1396__ there is a provision called “Section 1115 waiver” which is designed to enable States to try out variations on their Medicaid programs to reach broader segments of the population. The pertinent section of the Waiver is:  QUOTE HERE

In mid-January this year, CMS announced a policy in which it authorized States to develop programs that would require certain Medicaid-eligible persons (non-elderly, non-disabled, non-pregnant adults) to be employed or to participate in ‘community engagement activities” such as skills training, education, volunteering, job-searching or caregiving, as a condition for ongoing receipt of Medicaid insurance benefits. Ten states have responded to date. The first such waiver request that was approved is Kentucky’s. Poor adults must be work or person community engagement activity  20 hours a week to retain their health insurance under Medicaid. Kentucky is also imposing cash premium obligations on these Medicaid recipients, copayments for non-emergency use of an emergency room, and elimination of payment for non-emergency medical transportation. No doubt a significant increase in the State’s Medicaid bureaucracy will be required to create or implement all of these community engagement programs and to monitor the participation and prevent erroneous terminations of benefits. I wonder if the cost of all that has been compared to the cost of the lost Medicaid benefits.

The Kentucky waiver has been challenged in federal district court. There are 15 individual plaintiffs who are adversely affected by the new requirements. Click HERE for discussion and details. A major basis for the challenge is that the CMS invited and approved waiver requests that violate the purpose and objectives of the Medicaid Act that were articulated by Congress. The critical requirements for Medicaid eligibility have been resources, income limits, settings for delivery of services, and in many cases, transfer penalties. Under the existing statute, which is part of the Social Security Act, the Secretary of CMS can waive a state’s compliance with certain Medicaid requirements when a State proposes an “experimental, pilot, or demonstration project which, in the judgment of the Secretary is likely to assist in promoting the objectives of” the medicaid program. Stated another way, a Waiver needs to further the objectives of the Act, not reduce the availability of services to otherwise-eligible individuals. NAME OF SUPREME COURT CASE?? So, for example, States have implemented Home and Community-based Services or Assisted Living services under the Medicaid waiver, or have enabled people whose income exceeded three times the federal poverty limit (the “income cap”) to receive Medicaid services.

The new process appears to be encouraging States to come up with ways to restrict the number of needy people who can receive Medicaid health care benefits. The obligations will be onerous or impossible for some people. A person may have no control over his/her ability to secure 21+ hours of employment. A person with a poor employment history and limited skills may find it impossible to find community volunteer work.

There’s no indication that New Jersey is pursuing any of these onerous obligations. We shall see what emerges on the national front.

 

Tips on Residents’ Rights in Nursing Homes: Bed Holds

The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act and New Jersey Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights along with their regulations create numerous enforceable rights and protections for nursing home residents. Among these are the obligations to keep the bed available for certain amounts of time if a resident is temporarily out of the facility.

There are times that a resident must be transferred to a hospital or psychiatric facility. As part of the admissions agreement, and again at the time a patient transfers to a hospital or elsewhere for therapeutic treatment, the facility must provide specific written notice of all bed-hold procedures that would apply in situations where a patient was transferred elsewhere for care. 42 CFR 483.12(b)(1). That notice must explain exactly how long the nursing home will hold the resident’s bed open. At the time of an actual transfer, another notice must be given to the resident and a family member or representative about bed hold policies and the duration of the hold for that absence.

When a NJ resident is transferred to a general or psychiatric hospital, New Jersey regulations require that the nursing home hold the bed open for up to 10 days. NJAC 8:85-1.14(a)(1). If the resident is receiving Medicaid, then Medicaid pays for the bed-hold days at the per diem rate. If the resident is private pay, the days are billed to the resident at the customary rate. If the resident stays away longer than the 10 days, the resident will receive the next available bed. NJAC 8:85-1.14(a)(3). If a physician certifies that the resident requires a “therapeutic leave” for rehabilitative home and community visits, the bed hold protections cover up to 24 such days out of the facility per year, separate and apart from the 10 bed-hold days for hospital care. . NJAC 8:85-1.14(b)(1) – (3). For Medicaid recipients, if the resident requires more than 24 days therapeutic leave in one calendar year, authorization can be sought from NJ DMAHS to pay bed holds for additional days. NJAC  8:85-1.14(b)(6). Of course, a private pay resident can simply make arrangements with the facility to keep the bed available, and will pay the normal daily rate.

 

For contract review, advice and representation in selecting a nursing home, navigating the admission process, protecting residents’ rights, and evaluating payment options, call us at 732-382-6070

Find your parents’ Long-Term Care Policies so you can help them plan

There is plenty of debate about the benefits and drawbacks of buying long-term care insurance.  The premiums are expensive for a person in their 70’s who is first considering a purchase. Potential buyers worry that they will pay premiums for years and never have to use the policy. The industry has been in flux and there aren’t too many carriers around. What I do know is that over the years, long-term care insurance policies have been a lifesaver for many of my clients, particularly if the policy pays for in-home care. The annual premium cost has always been well less than a single month in a nursing home. So LTC policies can be an important component of long-range planning for a person who will eventually enter what I like to call “the elder zone.”

All too often, the need for 24/7 care drops on the doorstep when there’s been no prior planning, and concerned family members are faced with making arrangements without any good information. Elsewhere on this Blog I’ve written about strategies such as assembling the team, compiling your financial & insurance data,  and getting legal help for an updated estate plan and power of attorney. Today I suggest that you dig out those long-term care policies from wherever they are being stashed, read them and get familiar with what the policies provide. Contact the company for an updated statement of benefits. What’s the daily rate? Compare that to the anticipated cost of care  in a nursing home ($350+ in most places) or at home ($165 /day or more). Ask questions about what it takes to start the typical 90-day elimination period — what documentation is required? Can it start when the patient enters the hospital if s/he will then transition to long-term care? Can it start if the patient has already had an in-home Aide who was paid off the books? Find out if premium payments can be switched to auto-debit from the checking account, to avoid the risk of lapse if the policy-owner starts forgetting to pay bills.

The Medicaid home care program under MLTSS/HCBS  does not provide 24/7 full-time care. Knowing what the benefits are in your parent’s  long term care insurance policy can make a huge difference in how you approach the discharge planning from hospital or “rehab” back home for senior planning. It may be the ticket to asset preservation.

Call us for advice about long-term care planning and asset protection for peace of mind …. 732-382-6070

Medicaid annuity planning is alive and well in NJ

When a person applies for Medicaid under the NJ MLTSS program after having made gift transfers during the most recent 5 years, there will likely be a penalty period in which Medicaid will not pay for the care that this person needs (unless the transfers were exempt, such as transfers to a spouse or disabled child). This transfer penalty is mandated by federal law, and the greater the amount that was transferred, the longer the transfer penalty will be. If an applicant addresses this issue before the end of his spend-down period, there may be opportunities to protect the applicant by using some of the spend-down funds to purchase an annuity contract that can provide the income needed to pay for care during the penalty period.

The type of annuities that fit the bill are highly restricted and are not designed to maximize the rate of return the way conventional annuities might be. The reason that the technique works is because under federal and state Medicaid law, a distinction is made between “income” and “resources.” Resources must be reduced to a certain level before the person can even apply for benefits. Income, on the other hand, is usually received on a monthly basis and is turned over to the facility as a contribution towards the cost of care (with certain deductions). For the annuity plan to work, the contract cannot be countable as a “resource” as defined by Medicaid law. We had successfully litigated an IRA annuity case with the NJ Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (DMAHS) in 2009-10 (the P.K. case) PK FAD  A few years later, after several cases were decided in out of state venues,Lopes 2nd Cir ; Carlini we successfully litigated a non-IRA annuity case against DMAHS in 2013 (the M.W. case; M.W. FAD 1-28-140001 M.W. Initial ALJ decision ) leading to confirmation that if properly structured, an annuity effectively transforms countable resources into an irrevocable stream of income. If properly done, this technique can provide protection for the Medicaid applicant as well as his/her community spouse, and can also help to assure that there is a way to pay for care during an anticipated Medicaid penalty period.

Seniors who are planning for their care have many tools in their toolbox; the question is always which tools to use and how to get the results that the senior needs.

Call us to discuss a Medicaid spend-down plan that suits your circumstances … 732-382-6070