A New Jersey appeals court sided with the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services in ruling that a joint account between a Medicaid recipient and her daughter was a countable asset even though the daughter contributed all funds to the account. This ruling follows a pattern in New Jersey of making it more difficult for needy seniors to pay for long term health care.
In M.A. v. Div. of Med. Assistance & Health Serv., a Medicaid recipient was terminated due to the discovery of a joint bank account with her daughter. The Division stipulated to the fact that the daughter opened the bank account in 1998 and contributed all the funds. It was further stipulated that her mother, the Medicaid recipient, never deposited or withdrew funds from the account.
This is a troublesome ruling since it flies in the face of standard practice and common sense. There are multiple reasons why a younger person might add a family member to a bank account: probate avoidance, bad experiences with powers of attorney, or any other litany of conveniences. It is obvious from the facts that mom was not added to the account to give her a true ownership interest or provide for her long-term care needs. In fact, it is doubtful the Medicaid recipient even knew the account existed.
Moreover, arbitrary and inequitable rulings such as this are expensive and time-consuming for a government system already burdened by fraud and disorganization. For instance, in this case, an elder law attorney might now advise that the mother utilize any number of strategies to convert this newfound countable asset into an inaccessible asset. The result will be the same as before the denial – Medicaid eligibility – but DMAHS has spent unnecessary time and resources arguing that an account which is clearly not meant for the mother is nonetheless countable for Medicaid purposes.
The Medicaid qualification process is complicated and oftentimes unfair. Common sense and intuition do not always translate to a successful application. In times of need, when your family member requires long-term care, don’t leave it chance. At NJELC at Goldberg Law Group we are prepared to help your family navigate the Medicaid maze.