As fine print is wont to do, it had buried itself in a long form — Balhorn’s application for free health insurance through the expanded state Medicaid program. As the paperwork lay on the dining-room table in Port Townsend, Prins began reading.
She was shocked: If you’re 55 or over, Medicaid can come back after you’re dead and bill your estate for ordinary health-care expenses.
The way Prins saw it, that meant health insurance via Medicaid is hardly “free” for Washington residents 55 or older. It’s a loan, one whose payback requirements aren’t well advertised. And it penalizes people who, despite having a low income, have managed to keep a home or some savings they hope to pass to heirs, Prins said.
Washington state is trying to fix the law but long term, anything is possible…
“People will think this is wonderful, this is free insurance,” Orient said in an interview. “They don’t realize it’s really a loan, and is secured by any property they have.”
Even states that are now limiting estate recovery, she warned, can change the rules again if budget problems become more intense.
Keep in mind, if you qualify for Medicaid, you don’t qualify for a subsidy…
One reason this snafu has become so troublesome is that ACA rules appear to give those who qualify for Medicaid little choice but to accept the coverage.
People cannot receive a tax credit to subsidize their purchase of a private health plan if their income qualifies them for Medicaid, said Bethany Frey, spokeswoman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
But they could buy a health plan without a tax credit, she added.
For someone age 55 to 64 at the Medicaid-income level — below $15,856 a year — it’s quite a jump from free Medicaid health insurance to an unsubsidized individual plan. Premiums in King County for an age 60 non-tobacco user for the most modest plan run from $451 to $859 per month.
I predict an industry will form to assist people in “gaming the system”.