Together, We Can Address Inequities in Medicaid Estate Recovery

Solving our society’s challenges requires us to think creatively about what resources and options we have available to us.

Medicaid estate recovery is currently required by federal law. We know that the prospect of estate recovery dissuades eligible people from enrolling in Medicaid out of fear they will lose their home. And that fear is real: when the Medicaid program’s claim is enforced against the heirs of deceased enrollees, estate recovery can force the heirs to sell a family home that otherwise would have been passed down. The burdens of estate recovery fall especially hard on low-income families of color living in multigenerational homes and contributes to our racial wealth gap. 

But Illinois is a state of problem-solvers. Federal law grants Illinois some discretion to put guardrails in place to rein in the inequitable outcomes that can be caused by estate recovery. Today, Legal Council for Health Justice publishes a white paper that proposes three such guardrails: 1) that the state adopt a cost-effectiveness threshold and not pursue estates with less than $25,000, 2) that the state offer a wider variety of hardship waivers to avoid recovery of modest value homes and income-producing assets like family businesses, and 3) that the state make information about estate recovery more accessible and consumer-friendly.

By taking decisive action now, Illinois can reduce the risk that estate recovery will continue to harm our communities. Making these changes will allow the state to stop focusing estate recovery activities on estates with modest assets. These changes can help our families to live, thrive, and contribute to our communities.

You can read the white paper here.