“According to TennCare, since 2014, the number of estate recovery cases across the state has gone up 30 percent, while the amount of money recovered has more than doubled, jumping from just under $13 million to nearly $27 million.”
TennCare is the state of Tennessee’s program that covers medical care for the poor. It provides free care in many cases, but in some cases, it must be paid back. For example, Mary Musgrave lived in her home for many years, and at one point her daughter Lisa moved in to help take care of her. However, Lisa may be about to lose the home.
After Mary was in a car accident, she was forced to go on TennCare, after ending up in a nursing home. She lived there for five years, Musgrave explained to News Channel 5 Nashville in the article, “Daughter to lose home after mother's death due to money owed to TennCare for nursing home care.” She died in the nursing home, and afterwards, the family got a bill from TennCare for more than $171,000.
This is what's called an estate recovery. State law requires the government to collect what the TennCare program spends on long term care for anyone 55 and older, after they die.
TennCare isn’t a government benefit program. It's not a grant or a gift. Rather, it's a loan and the loan is required to be paid back after death. While estate recovery isn’t new, three years ago, the program dedicated more resources to it. It has become more aggressive in pursuing its rights to recovery.
When Musgrave said she couldn't pay what was owed, she was informed by the program that she would have to sell Mary's home to come up with the money.
There are some situations in which TennCare will let a family stay in the house, such as when there's a surviving spouse, a child under 21, or a disabled child. Adult children are permitted to remain in the house, if they lived with the parent and helped care for them for at least two years before the parent moved into the nursing home. However, in this instance, TennCare says Musgrave did not meet the requirements.
TennCare spent more than a billion dollars on nursing home care in 2018, and the state says estate recovery is critical for the program to continue.
The best way to protect your house from estate recovery, is through estate planning. This should be done well before a parent or any individual requires nursing home care. Experts recommend at least five years. Be sure that you talk with an attorney who specializes in elder law.
Reference: News Channel 5 Nashville (March 18, 2019) “Daughter to lose home after mother's death due to money owed to TennCare for nursing home care”