If you are an elder law attorney, Medicaid attorney or a family member of deceased recipient of Medicaid services in the State of Michigan you have likely received a Medicaid Estate Recovery letter and form from Health Management Systems, Inc. (“HMS”) on behalf of the Michigan Department of Community Health (“MDCH”) with the heading Notice of Intent to File Claim Against Estate. HMS is the company contracted by the State of Michigan to pursue and enforce estate recovery claims in light of the new law effective June 1, 2011. HMS is experienced with Estate Recovery and administers similar programs in several other states.
On June 1, 2011 The Michigan Department of Community Health formally issued a bulletin that states:
Medicaid beneficiaries who receive nursing facility care, MI Choice home and community based waiver services. Home health, home help, and hospital and prescription drug services on or after July 1, 2010, and after they have reached the age of 55 years, will be subject to recovery upon death or the death of a spouse.
The Estate Recovery law is an effort by the State of Michigan to pursue reimbursement for the State of Michigan for sums of money spent on an individual’s Medicaid services. While many other states have had similar laws for years, Michigan’s law though originally passed in 2007, was only approved by the Federal government in May of 2011. Currently, Michigan’s law only seeks recovery from Estates passing through the Probate Court. If a Probate Estate was never opened for a deceased Medicaid recipient, the State has no claim. There are also various other exceptions and exemptions that can be applied to the claim.
However, since the law is so new, there is a very significant gray area surrounding the effect on the estates of deceased recipients that required use of the Probate Court. The availability of assets that passed through a Probate Estate may hinge on the manner in which the Probate Estate process was handled, how long ago the decedent deceased, and whether the State of Michigan received notice of the opening of the Estate.
If you are a friend or relative of someone who received Medicaid services in the State of Michigan since 2007 it is highly likely that a family member, the attorney who handled the Medicaid application (if there was one), or the Personal Representative of the Estate may receive a Notice of Intent to File Claim. It is strongly recommended that you seek counsel from an attorney familiar with Estate Recovery prior to completing and submitting the form. There are deadlines, so it is important to act promptly!.
If you are a friend or relative of someone who currently receives or may be seeking Medicaid benefits in the future, it is more important than ever that they seek the advice and guidance of a qualified attorney with knowledge of elder law, estate planning and Medicaid laws. With proper planning, it is still possible to avoid the reaches of Estate Recovery.