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As this column has noted, Emily Bazar of the California Health Care Foundation’s Center for Health Reporting has been working three shifts documenting the abuses of Covered California, a wholly owned subsidiary of Obamacare. These abuses include a dysfunctional computer system that cost nearly $500 million, cancellation of health insurance without notice when people report changes in income, difficulties leaving Covered California when people go on Medicare, and so forth. For Bazar, this added up to “widespread consumer misery,” and as she now observes, the misery doesn’t stop when people die.
Covered California placed some enrollees in Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the federal Medicaid program. This scheme seeks repayment of many medical costs, primarily those incurred after age 55. “It’s called the Estate Recovery Program,” Bazar explains, “and under Obamacare it just got bigger and its reach broader.” Someone might not ever seek medical care under Medi-Cal, and never even see a doctor, but their family could face bills after they die. The state could seek recovery of premiums it paid to the plan. The federal government requires states to recoup certain costs from the estates of some Medicaid beneficiaries after they die. Trouble is, California is among 10 states that seek repayment beyond the federal minimum. Therefore, Bazar explains, your estate will be expected to pay back the value of ALL coverage you receive after 55. If the estate does not have sufficient assets, the state may require heirs to sign a “voluntary lien” on a home.
Obamacare “has raised the stakes significantly” with more than 3.5 million Californians joining Medi-Cal since January 2014, bringing total enrollment to 12.1 million people, one in four more than 55 years of age. By Bazar’s count, a full 80 percent of Medi-Cal enrollees are in managed care and subject to estate recovery. As she explains, “your post-death bill will automatically be based on the monthly payments made to your plan — whether you use any medical services or not.”
Some politicians believe this unfairly targets low-income seniors and seek a shield from recovery. Trouble is, Bazar notes, “Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure last year.” So reform is unlikely, and Obamacare will be mounting a surge as the nation’s misery index.