SPRINGFIELD, IL – State Senators Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) are cautioning Illinois citizens 55 and older about the possibility their assets could be claimed by the state if they opt in to the Medicaid program as allowed under the expanded Obamacare income guidelines.
"We need to make it very clear to those who are eligible for Medicaid that there is a possibility the state could go after their assets, including their home, in the event of an accident or illness," Dillard said. "It isn’t fair that people don’t know that enrolling in Medicaid could actually be the most expensive healthcare policy in the marketplace."
Dillard worries that some of those who are over age 55 with certain taxable income levels are being told they must enroll in Medicaid and are not being informed of the financial risk of asset seizure if they have a medical claim. He noted an example of where the state's new ACA law could affect the family.
"Take a 60-year-old couple who has decided to retire early and they are living on a small pension and their savings. Their taxable income could easily be less than $21,000 annually," Dillard noted. "Under the new law this couple is banned from purchasing coverage in the exchange; instead Illinois will enroll them in Medicaid. This couple is totally unaware, however, that if they have a medical claim the state could come after their assets.
"It's unfortunate that this law would not allow the couple to purchase coverage in the exchange, but they should at least be made aware that they have the option to purchase health coverage outside of the exchange as a way to protect their assets until age 65 when they will be eligible for Medicare."
Syverson explained a federal law passed by Congress in 1993 mandated states in many cases must attempt to recover money from the estates of those who received Medicaid benefits. The asset recovery law predates the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but the new law did not create an exception for those enrolling in Medicaid as part of the ACA; in fact, Syverson said it makes it worse. Under ACA-Medicaid the state can only use an income test to enroll people. Asset tests are no longer permitted under ACA.
“Governor Quinn has known or should have known about this issue for over a year but hasn’t addressed it,” said Syverson. “I worry that in the mad rush to enroll as many as possible into Medicaid, counselors are not telling prospective Medicaid enrollees about the possibility of asset seizure. I also doubt these individuals are being told about private options 'off exchange' which for some would actually cost them less in the long run.”
Open enrollment ends on March 31st of this year, and people won’t be able to obtain health care coverage through the exchange until next year’s enrollment period starts.
Dillard and Syverson said Governor Quinn should seek a waiver to extend the open enrollment period until the federal government clarifies its position on asset seizure and adequate time is given to notify those over age 55 who have already been enrolled in Medicaid. In the meantime, the lawmakers are calling on Quinn to require those enrolling individuals in Medicaid to inform enrollees of the possibility of asset seizure following an accident or illness, in addition to explaining what private options are available to them off the exchange.
“Why Governor Quinn waited this long to address such an important aspect of people’s choice in health care is beyond me,” said Dillard. “This issue however needs to be addressed and clarified now before people get locked into a choice they cannot change until next year’s open enrollment."