Estate recovery programs vex families, news report finds

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Some states are becoming more aggressive in claiming the estates of Medicaid beneficiaries after their deaths. Such policies trouble families who worry about losing their homes, a report from the Christian Science Monitor found.

Families should be notified about estate-recovery programs when a beneficiary applies for Medicaid and dies, but that does not always happen, according to a policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute. An AARP report found that in fiscal year 2003, states recouped $347 million from estate-recovery programs.

West Virginia in 2001 challenged the constitutionality of Medicaid estate-recovery programs, but a U.S. Circuit Court upheld the rule. Families are exempt from estate recovery if a spouse or a dependent younger than age 21 is still living.