Will my mother's estate be charged for bills that have already been paid by Medicare and Medicaid after she dies?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 23, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom is 66 years old , disabled, and is on medicaid and medicare, she owns her home, she will not ever go into a nursing home if she gets ill because I will bring her to live with me, my question is this: if she passes away will the state be able to charge her estate for the medical care she has recieved while on medicare and medicaid, such as doctor visits, hospital stays ect. not nursing home care. She does not have any medical bills currently because everything is covered but will her estate be charged for the bills they have already paid?

Expert Answers

Neither Medicare nor Medicaid seeks reimbursement for medical bills. As long as your mother does not receive long-term care from Medicaid, such as in a nursing home, her estate will not owe either program money it spent for her medical bills.

Medicare does not seek repayment under any circumstances. Medicaid only seeks reimbursement for amounts it spends, for someone age 55 or older, on long-term non-medical care, most commonly in a nursing home. If your mother remains at home and then later moves in with you, Medicaid will not try to recover from her estate any amounts Medicaid spent on her medical care.

However, you should be aware that if your mother sells her house and moves in with you, or keeps the house but no longer lives in it, the value of the house or the money she receives from the sale may disqualify her for Medicaid coverage of her medical bills. If someone lives in a house they own, the value of the house is NOT counted by Medicaid when Medicaid determines whether a person's income and assets are low enough to qualify for Medicaid. But when the house is sold, or the person no longer lives in it, this protected status for the house disappears, and the value of the house or money received for it is considered a countable asset and would most likely disqualify your mother from continued Medicaid coverage. (This rule only applies to Medicaid, though, not to Medicare. The status of the house would have no effect on your mother's Medicare eligibility.)