Medicaid-homegrown homelessness-NH style

Thomas Cagle (nh-adapt@juno.com)
Mon, 18 May 1998 08:40:11 -0400


--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: "Pete Eldredge" <phixr@concentric.net>
Subject: Six widows file suit over how homes were taken to pay Medicaid
Date: Sun, 17 May 1998 20:25:14 -0400

These folks at health 'n Human "Services" are really nice eh? The 
Mediscam money the state skims is not enough? they have to go after 
elderly widows too!!!! This is a Republican controled state I guess.
Enjoy the story.
                Pete Eldredge
            27 Davies Street
            Somersworth, NH 03878
            phixr@concentric.net
           
Six widows file suit over how homes were taken to pay Medicaid
            By D. ALLAN KERR
           
            Foster's Daily Democrat Staff Writer
          
            CONCORD  Six elderly widows have sued the state of New 
Hampshire in federal court, charging that officials broke the law when 
they put liens on their homes to recover the cost of nursing home care.
            The women, ranging in age from 74 to 98 years old, say the 
state went too far by placing notices of lien on homes where they were 
still living, in some cases within weeks after the death of their 
husbands.          
            The husbands of these widows each received Medicaid benefits 
to help pay their nursing home costs before they died. Typically, in 
such cases, the government takes the homes, resells them and recoups as 
much of the cost of care as possible.
            The lawsuit, filed last December in U.S. District Court, is 
a challenge to the states practice of collecting Medicaid 
reimbursements from people who are not Medicaid recipients.
            In a court document filed Thursday, the state agreed not to 
place any more lien notices against surviving spouses for the duration 
of the case. Officials actually halted the practice last year, but the 
stipulation now sets the policy on paper.
            The document also prohibits the state from demanding money 
from individuals to release the notice of lien and from placing future 
moneys into the state treasury, where it is immune from recovery through 
the courts. Instead, the money will be placed in escrow.
            New Hampshire Legal Assistance filed the suit as a class 
action on behalf of the widows, but the judge has yet to decide whether 
it can proceed as such. The class-action status means these six widows 
represent many other New Hampshire people, a group too numerous to be 
listed individually.
            The plaintiffs are Claire DesFosses of Portsmouth; Margaret 
Filocamo of Hampton; Dorothy Lane of Rochester; Maud Thompson of 
Meredith; Lillian Farnum of Concord and Doris Snyder of Charlestown.
            Terry Morton, commissioner of the =
state Department of Health and Human Services, is named as a defendant 
in the lawsuit. Controller James Fredyma and the department itself are 
also defendants.
            "It comes down to a question of interpretation 
of federal law," said John Wallace, associate commissioner of Health and 
Human Services.
            Medicaid law prohibits the filing of liens on 
recipients homes if a spouse is living in the home, and does not 
authorize liens on the property of anyone other than the Medicaid 
recipients, the lawsuit states.
            In nearly every instance, according to the suit, officials 
did not tell the women they had the right to request a waiver of the 
lien on the grounds of undue hardship. In fact, the plaintiffs say the 
state does not even have a waiver policy in place, although it is 
required.
            But that is only a fallback argument. The widows assert the 
notices should not have been filed in the first place.
            When John Lane and his wife tried to refinance the Rochester 
home they shared with his grandparents, the state stepped in and filed a 
notice of lien against the house.
            Lane, 80, had signed away her interest in the home on Aug. 
1, 1996, so her grandson could refinance the mortgage on the property 
for a lower rate. The deed was not recorded in the Strafford County =
registry of deeds until Aug. 7.
            Between those two dates, on Aug. 5, the state filed its 
notice against the property.
            The notice was filed 11 months after the death of Dorothy 
Lane's husband, George.
            The widow's grandson, John Lane, said he has no idea how 
the state knew to file its lien at that time.
            "That would be the biggest story in the world," Lane said 
recently. "We were shocked."
            John Lane and his wife moved in with his grandparents in 
1986 to help take care of them. His grandfather was in the early stages 
of Alzheimers disease, and in 1991 was admitted to Riverside Nursing 
Home.
            When he died nearly four years later, almost $143,000 in 
Medicaid dollars had been paid for his care. George Lane had no probate 
estate, according to the lawsuit.
            "At the time the Lane Notice of Lien was filed, the 
defendants had no basis for believing that George Lane's estate had an 
interest in the Rochester property against which the Lane Notice of Lien 
was filed," attorneys wrote.
            The department released the notice of lien the following 
May, but only after the couple paid the department $200.
            John's grandmother, whom he fears is also in the early 
stages of Alzheimers, moved into an assisted care home two weeks ago. 
The Lanes are paying the cost out of their own pocket.
            John Lane believes this is the right thing to do, since he 
and his two brothers were raised by his grandparents from the time he 
was 3 1/2. Because they brought up two generations of the family, the 
couple never had a lot of money.
            But when the state placed a lien on their home, John Lane 
feared the mortgage company might not approve the refinancing.
            Worse, he wondered if they would be kicked out of their own 
home, or if creditors would be concerned about the lien.
            "We were very nervous about that," he said. "We had some 
hairy times."
            Claire DesFosses, 74, of Portsmouth, was unable to sell the 
mobile home she had shared with her late husband until she agreed to 
place in escrow $42,254.22, the amount the state sought for =
reimbursement of Medicaid costs.
            Having the money in escrow protects it from other interests.
            But the widows lawyers say the states claim exceeded 
John DesFosses interest in the property, which was equal to about 
$20,000.
            The escrowed money was later released to allow DesFosses to 
buy a manufactured home in Florida, where the state promptly filed
another 
notice of lien.
            That notice was released last October, "after threats of
litigation," 
according to the suit, but officials told the woman they would reassert
the 
claim upon her own death.
            Another of the women, 98-year-old Margaret Filocamo of 
Hampton, lost her husband on Sept. 24, 1989 and proceeded to battle the 
state for several years over a lien placed on her property Oct. 3 of the 
same year.
            Filocamo became sole owner of the property after the death 
of her husband, whose estate was valued at only $784.47.
            It was more than six years before the state informed her it 
was seeking $90,538.78 for reimbursement of 
Medicaid benefits paid for his nursing home care.
            The widow is currently receiving Medicaid benefits for home 
care she is receiving.
            Last June, the state once again agreed "in response to
threats 
of litigation," to release the lien, with the intention of filing a claim
for 
reimbursement upon her death.
            The state now releases liens upon request, Wallace said
Friday.
            When asked why previous requests by the widows had been 
denied, he only replied, "I think those go back a ways."
            The associate commissioner declined to discuss details of 
the case, and said he did not know how much money has been brought into 
state coffers through the lien process.