Medicaid Coverage during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Senior Law News | Apr 27, 2021 | Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, CELA

As a result of various issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the state Medicaid agencies have faced a number of administrative challenges as they addressed a need to modify policies for coverage under their Medical Assistance programs. The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance (DMAS) during this time has issued a number of memorandums to address these complications, many of which directly impacted our clients who need routine long-term care services.

Perhaps one of the most significant policies, which was implemented in response to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, is that Medical Assistance cases should not be canceled or closed for any reason, including excess income, and that no action should be taken that would result in a reduction of coverage during the public health emergency. The limited exceptions to these policies relates to pregnant women once the woman’s postpartum coverage period has ended and continued eligibility for children who attain age 19. Since many of our clients experience a change of circumstances that result in a cancellation or reduction of coverage for a period of time. Often, the plans we put in place result in the imposition of a period of ineligibility due to uncompensated transfers; however, since DMAS cannot impose a penalty period it would cause a reduction of services, the period of eligibility is suspended until the public health emergency is over. Under certain scenarios, this has been a major benefit to clients who have experienced a change that caused their assets to exceed the $2,000 asset threshold.

Additionally, individuals who are receiving Medical Assistance must complete an annual redetermination for continuation of benefits. At the onset of the pandemic, clients continued to receive their annual redetermination notices, despite the fact that regardless of what was reported coverage could not be modified. Recently, DMAS indicated that they would not be processing these redeterminations, at least for the time being, and subsequently suspended the mailing of all redetermination notices. Our advice up to this point for clients who have received a redetermination notice has been, to protect against any potential problems after the public health emergency is over, to submit the completed redetermination. This advice stems from an announcement made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that the state agencies will need to address a backlog of Medicaid eligibility renewals and redeterminations after the public health emergency ends.

While there are still many uncertainties about how our clients will be impacted after the public health emergency is over, for now, most of our clients can rest easy knowing that their loved one will continue to receive care during this time, regardless of the circumstances.

Ask The Attorney

Client: Shannon, in the event the entirety of my assets, including my personal residence, are titled in my name alone with a transfer/payable on death beneficiary designation on file, is probate necessary?

Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro: There are many issues to address in this question, and the steps you take after death are really fact dependent. Probate itself is not what many people are concerned about – it is instead the administration process. Whether probate is required and whether administration, via the appointment of a personal representative, is required are two different things to consider.

Since it is a Class 6 felony to fraudulently destroy or conceal any will or codicil, with intent to prevent the probate thereof, if there is a will, it should be probated, or recorded, in the Circuit Court of the appropriate jurisdiction. Additionally, when there is real property, by probating the Will or filing a Real Estate Affidavit with the probate office, the land records are updated to reflect that the owner has died, and that ownership has vested to the beneficiary(ies). 

Probating the will, however, does not mean there will be qualification of a personal representative or probate taxes. Instead, the size of the probate estate will determine the necessity of both. Generally, there is no qualification necessary if the personal probate estate is less than $50,000, and probate taxes are avoided if the probate estate is below $15,000.

There are several probate avoidance strategies, and each should be considered as part of an entire plan. Some strategies, such as joint ownership, may result in the unintended consequence of only one, out of many, intended beneficiaries receiving the asset upon your passing. Other probate avoidance strategies include naming beneficiaries by designation with a financial institution, filing a transfer on death deed, or utilizing trusts. 

So, to answer your question more specifically, probate may still be necessary in the event all of your assets pass via beneficiary designation, but administration, and the qualification of a personal representative, may be avoided.

Ask Neo: The hap-hap-happy dog

Hook Law Center: Is it really a sign of happiness when dogs wag their tails?

Neo: It may very well be! Studies show that we wag our tails for a number of our emotions. Whether we are happy, nervous or sometimes even aggressive, you can usually tell by our tails. It is always important to pay attention to the environment as well as your pups stance to ensure your dog is not uncomfortable. Dogs that hold their tales high and wag fairly fast are usually showing signs of excitement or happiness. Tails between the legs often show a submissive or even a scared state while stiff tails could be a sign that we are a little uncomfortable and it may be time to get our attention focused on something else.

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