Calif. Governor Vetoes Bill To Protect Assets From Medi-Cal


This story is part of a partnership that includes Capital Public Radio, NPR and Kaiser Health News. It can be republished for free. (details)

With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Jerry Brown rejected an effort to protect the estates of Medicaid beneficiaries in California, the San Jose Mercury News reported Friday. The bill, which the Democratic governor vetoed on Thursday, would have shielded the assets of people who receive Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal in California, from being recouped by the state after their deaths.

In a three-paragraph letter to the state senate, Brown advised legislators to consider the issue during the budget process. Brown wrote: “Allowing more estate protection for the next generation may be a worthy policy goal. The cost of this change, however, needs to be considered alongside other worthwhile policy changes in the budget process next year.”

The issue is important to people like Anne-Louise Vernon, who recently signed up for Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of the program. Vernon told Pauline Bartolone of Capitol Public Radio that she fears using her new coverage.  “I feel so unsettled about this whole estate recovery thing that I’m afraid to go to the doctor,” she said.

The law has been on California’s books for two decades, but with the expansion of Medi-Cal it now has the potential to affect many more people.

More from Pauline Bartolone’s story for Kaiser Health News and Capitol Public Radio:

Elizabeth Landsberg of the Western Center on Law and Poverty said it turns what was intended to be a safety net program into a long-term loan program and undermines the security that families might pass on to the next generation.

“So in most cases it’s modest family homes that we’re talking about, and so the state will most often come back and put a lien on that home, and unfortunately it does force the kids to sell the homes sometimes,” said Landsberg.

Landsberg said the law is unfair under the Affordable Care Act, because other people buying insurance and getting premium subsidies through Covered California aren’t subject to the same rules.

“For the first time people have to have health coverage. So it’s created an inequity where the lowest income people could lose their assets, and other higher income people who are also getting publicly-subsidized health coverage have no worries,” said Landsberg.

This article was produced by Kaiser Health News with support from The SCAN Foundation.

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