Expert Tips for Georgia Medicaid: How to Avoid the Medicaid “Death Bill”

The rules for Georgia Nursing Home Medicaid eligibility are confusing.  We have tried our best to provide clear, concise information on our website and blog to help families understand their options and rights.  One area of Medicaid law that continues to confuse and scare families is the Medicaid “Death Bill.”  Otherwise known as Medicaid Estate Recovery, this bill is what Medicaid asks families to repay the state after a Medicaid beneficiary dies.

What is the Medicaid Estate Recovery?

The federal government requires each state to recover the money it spends on nursing home residents from the estates of Medicaid beneficiaries. So at the time of a Medicaid beneficiary’s death, the state will ask the administrator of the estate or the next of kin to provide information on the value of the Medicaid beneficiary’s estate. If the value of the estate is over $25,000, Medicaid will request to be paid back or even place a lien on property owned by the deceased beneficiary. Heirs will only receive their inheritance after Medicaid is reimbursed.

For example: Mr. Jones was in a nursing home for nine months before he died. He had enough money to pay for his first two months of care, but he applied and was granted Medicaid to help pay for the last seven months of his nursing home stay. During those last seven months, Georgia Medicaid paid a total of $35,000 for his care. After his death, the state filed a claim against his estate (which was only a checking account with $1,300 in it and a house worth $130,000) for $35,000 that was spent on his behalf.

Are there any limits?

There are limits on Georgia’s right to recover money from a beneficiary’s estate. The death bill will not be applied:

  • before the death of a surviving spouse;
  • if the individual has a surviving child who is under age 21 or who is blind or permanently disabled; and
  • if the estate is worth less than $25,000

Furthermore, a bill passed in 2018 (SB 370) protects the first $25,000 in assets from Medicaid Estate Recovery. You can read more about this bill in our July newsletter – Georgia’s Medicaid Changes in 2018 

How can I avoid the Medicaid Death Bill?

Earlier this year we offered some detailed tips on how to avoid Medicaid Estate Recovery. You can read the whole post here.  There are always options for avoiding the Medicaid Death Bill, but it does require proactive decisions. The rules are tricky, so be sure to consult with a knowledgeable, experienced Elder Law Attorney. If you or someone you know has questions about how these rules could work for them, please call our office for a complimentary consultation at (404) 843-0121.

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