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Michigan Elder Law Today

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Recent Holding by Michigan Court of Appeals Upholds Medicaid Eligibility Penalty for Home Health Aides

How do payments to home health aides impact Medicaid eligibility in Michigan? 


In Michigan, as is the case elsewhere, eligibility for Medicaid enrollment is entirely needs-based, meaning an applicant must be financially unable to pay the costs and fees associated with his or her medical care. Currently, Medicaid is the only government-funded healthcare program that covers the costs of long-term care, as Medicare only covers a nursing facility stay up to 120 days. 

In order to qualify for Medicaid, an applicant must show a lack of personal assets and a total inability to pay for medical bills individually. Accordingly, state and federal authorities will closely scrutinize an applicant’s financial situation, primarily focusing on any transfers or divestments made over the past five years. If an asset transfer or divestment has occurred, and the applicant could have used those funds toward his or her stay in the long-term care facility, a penalty will apply congruent with the amount of time those funds could have covered daily nursing home costs. 

Home Health Aides and Medicaid 

A home health aide is someone who regularly visits an individual’s home for purposes of providing routine medical care and/or assists with the administration of medication or other treatments. Home health aides are generally not expected to provide round-the-clock care, and are usually only appropriate for those individuals who are still able to manage several daily care tasks on their own. 

In one recent case, an elderly Michigan woman with dementia paid over $19,000 for home health services prior to her admittance to a nursing home. Once her funds were depleted, her family applied for Medicaid to cover the costs of her stay. However, agents concluded that the money she spent for the home health aide did not meet the stringent test set forth by Medicaid regulations, and she was penalized for 7 months before her benefits would be accessible. In the interim, she passed away leaving her family with an enormous debt to cover from an already-depleted estate. 

Thereafter, the family’s elder law attorney appealed the decision to the local Circuit Court, which held that the burdensome five-part test for home health aide divestment eligibility only applied when the caretaker is a family member related by blood or marriage, as the risk is higher in these situations for fraud to occur. 

Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals was given an opportunity to review the case as well, and agreed with the original opinion by the administrative law judge tasked with deciding the applicability of the home health aide eligibility penalty. 

If you are concerned about Medicaid eligibility and would like to speak with a qualified and experienced elder law attorney that serves the Auburn Hills area, please contact Andrew Byers by calling (248)301-1511 today. 


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