May 5

Lawsuit to Prevent State from Recovering Medicaid Benefits from Spousal Annuity May Proceed

A U.S. district court rules that a case by the family of a Kentucky Medicaid recipient challenging the state’s adherence to federal law regarding spousal annuities rather than to a less restrictive state regulation may proceed against the secretary of Kentucky’s Medicaid agency because the secretary does not have qualified immunity. Singleton v. Commonwealth of Kentucky (U.S. Dist. Ct., E. D. Ky., No. 15-15-GFVT, March 31, 2016).

Claude Singleton entered a nursing home and applied for Medicaid. His wife, Mary, purchased an annuity with herself as annuitant. Ms. Singleton wished to name the state as remainder beneficiary up to the amount of Medicaid paid on her behalf. State regulations provide that the state must be named remainder beneficiary for the amount of Medicaid benefits paid on behalf of the annuitant, and this did not change even after federal Medicaid law was amended in 2006 to require that states be named as a remainder beneficiary for Medicaid benefits paid on behalf of the institutionalized individual.  However, Ms. Singleton’s attorneys – the ElderLawAnswers member firm of McClelland & Associates, PLLC —  informed her that the state Medicaid agency’s branch manager would view structuring the annuity pursuant to the state’s regulation as a transfer for less than market value, so Ms. Singleton changed the state’s remainder beneficiary amount to Medicaid paid on behalf of Mr. Singleton.  

After Ms. Singleton died, her children, the annuity’s secondary beneficiaries, sued the secretary of the state Medicaid agency, along with other parties, arguing that state regulations may be less restrictive than federal law and that the branch manager’s alleged policy of rejecting annuities drafted pursuant to Kentucky’s own statute was improper. The state filed a motion to dismiss, arguing, among other things, that the secretary has immunity.

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky denies the motion to dismiss the claim against the secretary in her official capacity. The court holds that because the Ms. Singleton’s children are seeking prospective injunctive relief by seeking to prevent the state from collecting any more than the amount paid by the state on behalf of Ms. Singleton, the secretary is not entitled to immunity.

For the full text of this decision, go to:

December 24

Activities of Daily Living Measure the Need for Long-Term Care Assistance

Most long-term care involves assisting with basic personal needs rather than providing medical care. The long-term care community measures personal needs by looking at whether an individual requires help with six basic activities that most people do every day without assistance, called activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs are important to understand because they are used to gauge an individual’s level of functioning, which in turn determines whether the individual qualifies for assistance like Medicaid or has triggered long-term care insurance coverage.   

The six ADLs are generally recognized as:

  • Bathing. The ability to clean oneself and perform grooming activities like shaving and brushing teeth.  
  • Dressing. The ability to get dressed by oneself without struggling with buttons and zippers.
  • Eating. The ability to feed oneself.
  • Transferring. Being able to either walk or move oneself from a bed to a wheelchair and back again.
  • Toileting. The ability to get on and off the toilet.
  • Continence. The ability to control one’s bladder and bowel functions.

There are other more complicated tasks that are important to living independently, but aren’t necessarily required on a daily basis. These are called instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) and include the following:

  • Using a telephone
  • Managing medications
  • Preparing meals
  • Housekeeping
  • Managing personal finances
  • Shopping for groceries or clothes
  • Accessing transportation
  • Caring for pets

Long-term care providers use ADLs and IADLs as a measure of whether assistance is required and how much assistance is needed. In order to qualify for Medicaid nursing home benefits, the state may do an assessment to verify that an applicant needs assistance with ADLs. Other state assistance programs also may require that an applicant be unable to perform a certain number of ADLs before qualifying. In addition, long-term care insurance usually uses the inability to perform two or more ADLs as a trigger to begin paying on the policy.  

August 27

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Proposes New Regulation to Govern Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements

On July 16, 2015, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published in the Federal Register an exhaustive proposed rule on requirements for long-term care facilities. One of the proposed provisions concerns dispute resolution — specifically, binding arbitration agreements — at Sec. 483.70(n). The posted background on this topic provides, “We considered not proposing any requirements concerning binding arbitration agreements. We share stakeholders’ concern that some nursing homes may be requiring residents to sign agreements for binding arbitration as a requirement for admission into the facility. In addition, if the nursing home is not requiring the agreement as a condition of admission, some facilities may be requesting the resident to sign the agreement without fully explaining the rights the resident is waiving and the consequences of that waiver. We have proposed specific requirements if a nursing home chooses to request that a resident sign an agreement for binding arbitration. These requirements include, among other things, that the nursing home must explain the agreement to the resident in a form and manner that he or she understands, and that the resident acknowledge that they understand the agreement. We have also proposed specific requirements for the agreement, including that admission to the facility cannot be contingent upon the resident signing the agreement, the agreement must be entered into voluntarily, and the arbitration must be conducted by a neutral arbitrator in a venue convenient to both parties.

For the full text of the proposed regulations from the Federal Register, click here.

August 24

Medicaid-Eligible Nursing Home Resident Is Stuck With Costs of Private-Pay Room

An Illinois appeals court rules that Medicaid does not cover a Medicaid-eligible nursing home resident who was in a private-pay room and that the nursing home was not required to move her to a Medicaid-certified bed earlier than it did, meaning that the resident could be discharged from the nursing home for nonpayment. Slepicka v. State (Ill. Ct. App., 4th Dist., No. 12MR743, July 7, 2015).

Mary Slepicka entered a nursing home as a Medicare patient. When her Medicare nursing home coverage ran out in April 2011, she became a private-pay resident.  At the time Ms. Slepicka signed the private-pay contract, money from the sale of her house was her main asset. The nursing home did not place Ms. Slepicka in a Medicaid-certified bed until March 2012. After visiting a financial planner, Ms. Slepicka put the assets from the sale of her house in an annuity and applied for Medicaid. The state granted her benefits retroactive to June 2011.

The nursing home claimed it could not bill Medicaid for the days Ms. Slepicka was not in a Medicaid-certified bed, so it billed Ms. Slepicka. Ms. Slepicka did not pay the nursing home, and the nursing home served Ms. Slepicka with a notice of discharge. Ms. Slepicka appealed the discharge, arguing that she could not be charged for the days Medicaid covered. The nursing home argued it did not put Ms. Slepicka in a Medicaid-certified bed right away because it believed she had assets that she needed to spend down. The trial court granted the nursing home summary judgment, and Ms. Slepicka appealed.

The Illinois Court of Appeals affirms, holding that Medicaid is not required to cover expenses incurred by private-pay residents even if the resident is eligible for Medicaid, and that the nursing home was not required to move Ms. Slepicka into a Medicaid-certified bed. According to the court, “just because a resident is financially eligible for Medicaid, it does not necessarily follow that Medicaid will cover every expense the resident incurs during the period of eligibility, regardless of where the resident incurs the expense.” In addition, the court holds that the nursing home did not know that Ms. Slepicka would qualify for Medicaid as soon as she did, so it was not required to move her into a Medicaid-certified bed any sooner.

July 13

94-Year-Old Must Pay Alimony to Offset Ex-Spouse’s Nursing Home Costs

Nebraska’s highest court determines that a 94-year-old husband must pay alimony to his 95-year-old ex-wife in order to help offset her nursing home costs, even if doing so puts his income below the poverty level. Binder v. Binder (Neb., No. S-14-783, June 26, 2015).

Laura and Glen Binder married in 1982. It was a second marriage for both of them and they had no children together. Mr. Binder owned farmland and operated a fertilizer business. Ms. Binder did not work outside the home. In 2012, Ms. Binder moved into a nursing home. Her income did not cover the cost of care, so Mr. Binder contributed the remaining amount.

Mr. Binder filed for divorce from Ms. Binder when he was 94 years old and she was 95 years old. The court dissolved the marriage and awarded Ms. Binder alimony in order to offset her nursing home costs. Mr. Binder appealed, arguing that the amount of alimony was presumptively an abuse of discretion because it drove his income below the poverty level in violation of state child support guidelines.

The Nebraska Supreme Court affirms, holding that the state child support law does not apply because the Binders do not have any minor children. The court concludes that the alimony award is not unreasonable because Mr. Binder has the power to dispose of farmland.