Protect your assets from estate recovery under MassHealth

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2024 | Estate Planning, MassHealth

Many elderly people who need long-term care are concerned about the cost. When they are approved for MassHealth – the state version of Medicaid – it is a relief. However, receiving MassHealth coverage does not fully protect their property after they are gone.

Understanding estate recovery and its exceptions

In the practice of estate recovery, some MassHealth recipients are required to have their estates pay back the state and federal government for services they received. This is limited to people who are at least 55 and anyone who uses the program for long-term nursing home care or is placed a medical care facility.

The amount they leave behind is key when determining if they will be subject to estate recovery. If they have a probate estate with more than $25,000 of assets left behind, estate recovery might be put in effect. There are ways that people can be exempt from paying the state and federal government back. For those who only used MassHealth for their elder care needs for a short time, it might fall short of the $25,000. The amount that will be paid back is for what they used.

Estate recovery will not happen immediately or it can be waived in certain circumstances. If the person’s spouse survives them, there is a child younger than 21 or a child who suffers from a permanent disability or is blind, then there might not be estate recovery. At the very least, it can be delayed.

Another option is a hardship waiver. When the assets are calculated and the situation analyzed, MassHealth could find that the family members or heirs will face undue hardship because they are losing the assets. It can decide that some assets will be paid back or it could determine that it will not recover any assets.

The following reasons may justify this finding: if the heir’s income was below a certain level for two years; the heir cared for the family member for a minimum of two years before they went to live in a facility; or they would need to sell the property they resided in because of their low income.

Be prepared when receiving MassHealth coverage

People are undeniably relieved when a loved one is approved for MassHealth to cover for long-term care. Still, it is wise to be fully cognizant of how the person’s assets can be impacted and whether there might be estate recovery. For answers to these and other questions about elder law and MassHealth, people need to gather all the necessary information and be fully prepared for the future.