What About Medicaid Liens?
Medicaid is a “means-tested” program. That is, if a person has the financial means to pay for his own care, Medicaid will not take care of that person until his own resources are exhausted.
If we are the one who needs assistance, we usually wish there was some way to preserve our assets for our heirs and still rely on the government for the cost of our care. But, as taxpayers, we appreciate this frugality.
When we say that Medicaid requires a person to “exhaust” his own resources before receiving state assistance, there are two noteworthy exceptions to that rule: A person will be allowed to retain one house and one car and still receive Medicaid assistance.
But in exchange for those exceptions, the Medicaid program is given a legal lien against that house and car. Nothing is payable under that lien until the person receiving the assistance passes away. Then the estate is required to pay the state back for the assistance received for the last five years of the person’s life.
If the assistance paid by Medicaid was for just a few months, then the lien is for that nominal amount of assistance and the rest of the value of the house and car may be passed on to the heirs of the person who passed away.
But if the assistance covered a lengthy period of time, then whatever was paid by the state will be recovered up to the full value of the house and the car. But not beyond that value. In other words, the heirs of the person who received the assistance will never be required to dip into their own resources to pay the state back for the Medicaid assistance received by the parents or other family members of that heir.