Sunday, August 18, 2013

Legalized Grave Robbing

The fact that the government tries to recoup money paid out in public support is nothing new.

About fifteen or twenty years ago, the local paper ran a story about a woman who had recently passed away.   They told about how the woman's husband had abandoned her and their young children.  The woman went on AFDC while she earned her GED and got a job doing janitorial work with the Milwaukee Public Schools.  The article said that not only was the woman able to get off of AFDC, and raise all of her children to be upstanding members of the community, she also managed to save enough to buy her own home.  Granted, it wasn't in the best of neighborhoods, but it was a home they could call theirs.

The reason for the article, however, wasn't to celebrate the woman's accomplishments.  The reason for the article was that, after the woman had passed away, the state had swooped in and claimed the house as reimbursement for the AFDC support the woman had received decades before.

Likewise, when my grandfather died eight years ago, the state took years to research through microfiche to see if he had received any public support in the 1930's, during the Great Depression.

Although the government would go after estates for recoupment, there had been safeguards to protect a spouse from being dinged for benefits a person might have received.  Likewise, there were safeguards, such as trust accounts, that allowed people to save for things like funerals.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Scott Walker and his Teapublican allies in the legislature have set their eyes on this money as well:
Provisions buried in the new Wisconsin budget dramatically expanded the state’s ability to claim dead couples’ joint property, such as Green Bay Packers tickets or the family farm, to recoup Medicaid expenses — even if the assets are protected in trusts.

The language is designed to help the state recover Medicaid money spent on a number of long-term care programs, most notably Family Care, which helps keep disabled and elderly people out of costly nursing homes.


Federal rules also prohibit people from divesting or giving away property to make themselves poor enough to qualify for a long-term Medicaid program. However, the regulations allow applicants to transfer some assets, such as interest in a business, at less than market value without penalty.

The Wisconsin budget eliminates that exemption, which means a Wisconsin resident seeking Medicaid coverage for long-term care would have to sell his or her assets, such as a share of a family business or farmland, for full market value even if it was going to a child.

The language was part of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget and was approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature in June.
The real kicker comes when Walker's staffers try to defend this legalized grave robbing:
Officials with the state Department of Health Services, which Walker’s administration controls, defended the changes in an email. Agency spokeswoman Claire Smith wrote a surviving spouse can continue to use the marital property while he or she is alive and recovery efforts won’t begin until that spouse dies and no longer needs the assets.

More people are who wealthy and financially savvy are placing assets in trusts to avoid probate and escape state recovery efforts, leaving it to taxpayers to foot their health care bills, she said.

“It is not fair to have friends and neighbors pay taxes to finance all of a person’s long-term care needs so that an inheritance can be left to others,” Smith wrote.
You know, I'm a lot less concerned about my neighbor leaving their house for their kids than all the hundreds of millions of dollars being given out by Walker and his WEDC to companies that aren't being held accountable for the money.

I'd be all for a law that would recoup our hard-earned tax money from companies like ABC Supply and their officers, like Dianne Hendricks, as opposed to going after the elderly, the disabled and the poor.

1 comment:

  1. Does that mean that since Koch Industries and Ron Johnson's PACUR received government aid, then the government can seize part of those companies? After all, companies are recognized as people, don't you know.