Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By C.M. Swanson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Support for disarming MA estate liens grows

 

C.M. Swanson

Support grows at the state Capitol for disarming Medical Assistance estate liens.

Late last year, Rick and Rose Rayburn, Scott and Sue Killerud and Robert and Julie Gelle, all of Pine County, unearthed a gruesome fact for many Minnesotans between ages 55-65. Over 80,000 people in that age bracket who signed up for health care coverage through MNsure were, unbeknownst to them, shuttled to Medical Assistance (MA), which subsequently allowed the state to file a claim against their personal estates in amounts up to $30,000 for insurance premiums paid on their behalf.

All three couples cancelled their MA accounts and began a long, arduous journey down an American trail to rectify the situation. They contacted MNsure, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), insurance agents, attorneys, state representatives, senators and countless media resources.

Due to their efforts, currently a set of bills affecting the situation is making its laborious way through the Minnesota Legislature. Sen. Tony Lourey (D) was the first to rally for the cause. March 14 Sen. Lourey introduced bill S.F. 2501 to the Senate. The bill retroactively limits Medical Assistance estate recoveries for people 55-65 (outside those institutionalized in long-term care situations) receiving MA. It also calls for reimbursement of any recoveries made. After its introduction to the Senate and its first reading, the bill was assigned to the Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing.

At a March 17 meeting, Sen. Lourey presented the bill to the committee, after which Rick Rayburn and Scott Killerud brought testimony. The bill was adopted and re-referred to the Committee on Finance.

March 31 Sen. Lourey presented the bill to the Senate Committee on Finance where Rick Rayburn, Scott Killerud and Claudia Foussard, a St. Paul resident and business owner, gave testimony. At that meeting, Sen. Lourey pointed out the state is not required to recover assets for people receiving basic health care services under the Medicaid Expansion of the Affordable Care Act, although the state elected to do so. Currently the DHS is poised to enforce estate recoveries.

Sen. Lourey noted it would cost the state just over $2 million to implement the change called for in the SF 2501 bill.

"I think it is a very small price to pay to fix a dire, unintended consequence that involves literally tens of thousands of Minnesotans that deserve better from our state," said Sen. Lourey.

On the House of Representative side of the Legislature, on March 29, Rep. Jason Rarick (R) presented three companion bills to the Health and Human Services Reform Committee. The first bill, HF 3555 requires the MNsure application to fully disclose and prominently display a statement related to the repayment of MA costs and premiums. HF 3556 calls for providing a way to repay MA claims prior to the demise of the recipient. There is currently no provision for repayment until the death of the recipient. HF3615 prohibits estate recoveries, and if recoveries have been made, to fully reimburse the decedent's estate.

Rep. Rarick sat with Rick Rayburn, Scott Killerud, Julie Gelle, Foussard and Edina resident and business owner Jim Grotz as they brought testimony at the meeting.

"Tens of thousands of Minnesotans are being taken advantage of by MNsure," said Rayburn. "They applied for health insurance and they got estate liens. What the DHS is doing is not moral, ethical nor, dare I say, legal."

Rayburn went on to say the 14th Amendment prohibits discrimination against age and economic status, that federal law requires states to notify MA recipients about estate recovery during the initial application, and that contract law requires all essential terms of an agreement to be agreed upon before the contract can be accepted or enforced.

"So I would like to know how these claim policies are being justified," said Rayburn. "This isn't a budget issue, nor is it a partisan issue. This issue transcends party lines. It has become a humanitarian issue."

Lack of disclosure on the insurance application form was the impetus of the feeling of injustice for those who testified.

"The MNsure program is irresponsibly deficient in its application process, its eligibility process and its ability to correct errors, and claim history," said Rayburn who also challenged the DHS to bring forth an application from 2013 that prominently or otherwise displayed the estate lien clause.

"I don't believe one exists," he said.

"Medical Assistance has brought my husband and myself heartache and misery," said Julie Gelle. "The mental anguish is a daily reminder of the deceitful practices of MNsure and DHS. Signing up through MNsure for our health insurance was the biggest mistake of my life."

"We will always maintain that our goal is the elimination of this terrible MA trap," said Scott Killerud. "It is poison."

"I am absolutely horrified," said Foussard, who was surprised to learn she was on MA through MNsure, then subsequently discovered a $20,000 claim against her home. "This bill is morally wrong."

Foussard has been trying to close her MA account but has been told the account can not be closed because the "systems aren't interfacing" between the agencies involved.

Committee Chair Rep. Tara Mack (R) concurred with Foussard's statement regarding people facing the inability to close MA accounts.

"It is one of the major challenges right now for MNsure, to close those cases," said Mack.

Rep. Rarick related the story of a constituent who has a claim against the house and property that has been in his family for over 100 years. The man has a child with a disability to whom he planned the estate to go upon his demise. The distraught man called Rep. Rarick upon discovering the MA claim against his estate.

"It was because of their stories that I got involved," said Rep. Rarick.

Before the close of the testimony, several representatives apologized for the situation that had been created through the Medicaid Expansion of the Affordable Care Act, specifically by dropping the Asset Test, which caused the capture of the affected group.

"This reminds me of a land mine that is left there long after the war is over and somebody steps on it," said Rep. Tina Liebling (D). "I am concerned that somebody did know and didn't tell us."

Rep. Rarick's bills were adopted by the Health and Human Services Reform Committee and re-referred to the House Committee on Finance.

Steps a bill must follow to become a law may be seen at http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hinfo/govser/GOVSER6.pdf.

If you are between 55-65, have health insurance through MNsure, and are not paying premiums, you may have been routed to MA. You may confirm the amount of the claim building against your estate by calling the Minnesota DHS Benefit Recovery Unit at (651) 431-3204 or toll free at (800) 657-3963.

 
 

Reader Comments
(1)

Peaved writes:

What about estates involving people over the age of 65? My mother passed away last year at the age of 84 and when we probated her estate, Hennepin county hit us with a $65,000 bill! She was only on medical assistance for 2 years and never was hospitalized, lived on her own, and took care of herself without any outside help or help from the county. I'd like to know why this bill is limited to 55-65 year olds??

 
 
 

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