Life can get expensive. Sometimes we don’t really think about how much it costs to die. I’m not talking about funeral expenses or those kinds of things. A dozen infomercials will tell you all that. I’m talking about what the government wants to do to your estate if you have one. Allow me to explain what happens if you have been in long-term care under Medicaid.
When I first learned of a law passed under the Clinton administration called the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) I was confused and angered by the idea. As I chewed on it for a while I began to understand the reasoning. Humphrey Bogart in the classic, Casablanca, told Major Strasser of the 3rd Reich that when it came to a person trying to escape the Germans that he understood their motivations, but he also understood those who sought his capture. His line went something like, ‘I understand the fox and I can understand the part of the hound, too.’ That is where I find myself currently with MERP. Allow me to explain.
Sharing the story of my brother Rod is the easiest way to make it this clear. For five years he was in a nursing home, bedfast and in need of regular and constant medical care. To qualify for Medicaid to cover all the expenses, he had to liquidate absolutely everything. His house, cars, property… everything. Then, for all those years, Medicaid (U.S. taxpayers) picked up that tab. Now, before we go off about taxpayers… remember Rod was also a taxpayer and even as he received a pension which went directly to the nursing home, he still had taxes and he had paid into the Medicare Medicaid system for over fifty years before he began drawing off of it. Then, he died. What money he had left was quickly swallowed up in his cremation and the outstanding bill from the nursing home with some of that bill still outstanding.
This past week I received a letter to the estate of my brother, (I am executor). It came from the State of Ohio’s own Attorney General and signed by Judith E. Lancaster, Special Counsel to the Ohio Attorney General. It informed me that the State was suing Rodney’s estate for an amount well over $246,028.61, plus interest for payments made on his behalf. Under MERP, the State of Ohio was trying to recoup all the money it spent for Rod’s care plus interest. The story is it will help pay for the next person’s care. Everyone who believes it will all go back to the right fund, raise your hand!
In Rod’s case, there is no money for them to recover. I have to show proof of his insufficiency to pay the bill and I can without a problem. However, what if Rod had a $250,000 life insurance policy to help his kids get on with life without him? If he had, the State of Ohio would take just about $246,028 of it plus interest . Then his children can bask in the thrill of $3,000.00 inheritance. Subtract first the $6,158.70 still owing the nursing home. Sorry children and grandchildren, you’re in the hole. Rod didn’t have that kind of life insurance, so no one wins.
The government says they are just trying to recover taxpayer dollars. Any family would say, had they lost their inheritance, he paid his taxes for fifty years and he paid all his life for his life insurance and still walks away with nothing other than the care he received.
So, I can see the case for the fox and for the hound; but it still seems to me that he hound who is not chasing a mass number of illegal aliens pouring into our country. The illegals are to be given handouts of taxpayer dollars. To take every nickel from an American citizen who worked all his life and paid his taxes just doesn’t quite seem to add up.
In America it can be expensive to live. Apparently, it can also be extremely expensive to die.