By: Kevin R. Albaum, Esq.
Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state health insurance program that will help many people with limited income and resources pay for their health care. For those with disabilities or illness and no funds available to pay for care, Medicaid health insurance is often the only option available to pay for their medical services.
Since 1972, Retroactive Medicaid Coverage (“RME”) has been available for individuals to receive Medicaid coverage up to three (3) months before they have even submitted an application for Medicaid benefits. The goal of RME was to protect people that were eligible for Medicaid benefits but did not know to apply for assistance until after they had received medical services or because a sudden injury or illness prevented them from applying timely for assistance. RME meant that individuals (that truly had minimal assets or income) who ended up in a health crisis would be able to receive benefits to pay providers for care they had received. However, Florida RME is no more.
The State of Florida requested and received authority from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to eliminate RME. Effective February 1, 2019 Florida has eliminated RME for most Medicaid programs in the state. RME will only remain in effect for pregnant women or children under age 21. However, everyone else that may need coverage (such as an elderly woman in a nursing home or a 30-year-old in a catastrophic car accident) will not have this option to pay for their medical services. To receive Medicaid benefits, a person must now file for benefits in the month they received medical services.
The goal of
cutting RME is to save the state and federal governments substantial funds in
their annual budget appropriations. It is estimated that cutting RME in Florida
will save the state and federal government footing the bill for Medicaid
approximately $98 million per year. However, the government’s savings will
result in medical providers almost certainly not receiving any private pay or
insurance payment for many services they are providing to these people (as
people who need Medicaid have very limited income or resources). In turn, this
may lead to higher future costs for medical services to those of us that are
able to pay for our medical services.
As an elder law attorney, I often come across seniors (sometimes incapacitated seniors) with minimal or no assets that are not even aware that they need Medicaid to pay for their nursing home care. They might not find out until after their primary insurance benefits (Medicare and/or Tricare) have been fully exhausted and when insurance companies refuse to pay for any further skilled nursing care. RME is vital for these seniors to avoid discharge from the nursing home for non-payment. Only time will tell if the elimination of RME was a good thing that saved our state and federal governments (and us as taxpayers) substantial money or a bad thing that financially harmed our medical service providers (with large accounts receivable from people that cannot afford to pay their medical bills) and those people who already had no means to pay for their own medical services.
It is more imperative now than ever to have a basic understanding of Medicaid programs for senior care so that family can act quickly to gain eligibility for these benefits if they are ever needed in the future. Elder law attorneys typically specialize in this area of the law and can assist in proactive planning to pay for senior care in the future.
Kevin Albaum is a shareholder in the Elder Law Practice at Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A. Questions can be submitted online to firstname.lastname@example.org.