‘Spending Down’ for Medicaid Coverage: A Cautionary Tale

Medicaid is a need-based public benefit program that assists citizens in paying for medical care. Therefore, a person can only receive benefits if he or she meets certain income criteria. In order to meet the criteria, many people attempt to spend down their assets. However, if not done properly, a ‘Medicaid spend-down’ could have disastrous consequences. A recent article tells the story of Eugene Shipman, who ran into trouble after attempting to spend down his assets to qualify for Medicaid.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Me...
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Medicaid administrator) logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shipman and his wife, Arline, began the spend down process in April of 2008, so that Arline would qualify for Medicaid coverage for her anticipated and impending care needs. As part of this spend-down, Eugene disinherited her in his will executed in March of 2009. Following the drafting of the will, Arline’s son, David – who exercised her power of attorney – disclaimed any inheritance from Eugene on her behalf.

Then, in 2010, Eugene unexpectedly passed away. Arline’s attorney scrambled to file a petition to claim an elective share of Eugene’s estate on her behalf. When the trial court denied the petition, Medicaid got involved and asked the court to reconsider. Luckily, the appellate court revoked the disclaimer and granting Arline the elective share.

Had the court determined that the disclaimer should not be revoked, not only would she have lost her Medicaid eligibility, but she would have also missed out on half of Eugene’s estate. The story of Eugene and Arline should remind individuals that they must seek competent counsel and take caution when involved in a Medicaid spend down.

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