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Upton, Dingell Take Action to Protect Seniors from Impoverishment Due to Long-Term Care Costs

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Washington, November 16, 2018 | Tom Wilbur (202-225-3761) | comments

Today, Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced bipartisan legislation to extend financial protections to seniors who receive long-term care in their home or a community setting.

Medicaid – the primary payer for long-term care, services, and supports – includes protections to prevent a spouse from depleting all their financial resources due to a significant others’ long-term care needs. In order to maintain Medicaid eligibility, beneficiaries with a family member needing long-term care, services, or supports may be put in a situation where they need to “spend down” their resources, or potentially bankrupt themselves, in order to get the care they need.

Under current mandates, spousal impoverishment protections in Medicaid prevent unnecessary financial harm in cases where one spouse needs long-term care in a nursing home or institutional care facility. But protections for care at home or in the community – which tends to be less costly and less disruptive for families – are due to expire in a few weeks at the end of the year.

In an effort to erase the institutional bias that has led seniors to choose more costly nursing homes over impoverishment, Dingell and Upton have introduced the Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act. The legislation permanently extends spousal impoverishment protections for Medicaid beneficiaries receiving long-term care in a home or community care setting.

“Our long-term care system is broken,” said Dingell. “Seniors and their families already face too many challenges when navigating long-term care, and they should not have to get divorced or go broke just to be eligible for the care they need. Our bipartisan bill permanently extends spousal impoverishment protections to seniors no matter if they are receiving care in home, in the community, or in a nursing home facility.”

“Long-term care for our seniors and their families should be about improving quality of life,” said Upton. “Our bipartisan bill does that. It will help seniors protect their nest eggs and improve home and community-based services here in Michigan and across the country. I’m glad to partner with Rep. Dingell to push this much-needed fix across the finish line.”

You can read the text of the Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act here.

The Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act is supported by the National Council on Aging, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Autism Society of America, Community Catalyst, National Association for Home Care & Hospice, Jewish Federations of North America, LeadingAge, National PACE Association, Center for Medicare Advocacy, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, Center for Public Representation, and Justice in Aging.

“Older Americans needing long-term care are more likely to be able to stay out of nursing homes if they are married. Current law makes no sense - federal Medicaid protections for spouses of nursing home residents are permanent, but protections for spouses of those getting home care expire at the end of this year. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) strongly supports legislation introduced by Rep. Dingell to address this bias, keep older couples together, and reduce unnecessary nursing home placement,” said Howard Bedlin, Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy of the National Council on Aging.

Individuals who require assistance with daily activities should be allowed to age in place and not be forced to go into a nursing home simply to protect their spouse from becoming poor. That’s why we are extremely thankful to Rep. Dingell for introducing a bill to extend the mandate that Medicaid’s spousal impoverishment protections for nursing home care also apply to home and community-based services,” said Michael Amoruso, President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. 

 “Justice in Aging strongly supports the Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act because it will give married seniors and people with disabilities a meaningful choice to age in place with their spouse and stay connected to their families and communities, without fear of financial ruin,” said Kevin Prindiville, Executive Director of Justice in Aging.

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