Little-known state agency collects money from dearly departed

The government pays for some of your long-term health care if you can't, but when you die, the Nevada Medicaid Estate Recovery unit comes to collect.

That is, if you're over 55 and don't have a living spouse or dependent child.

In fiscal year 2005, which ended in June, about $1.1 million was collected from the estates of deceased Medicaid recipients. That's up about $600,000 from the previous year, according to the Legislative Council Bureau Fiscal Analysis Division.

According to a 1993 federal law, states must attempt to recoup some of the expenses paid out in Medicaid if the recipient has assets at the time of their death.

The amount recovered by each state varies greatly, some taking in millions, according to an AARP report. The states recovered a total of $347.4 million in 2003, the most recent fiscal year data available. About $54 million was recovered in California in 2003 ranging down to about $86,000 in Louisiana.

Chuck Salerno, Medicaid estate recovery supervisor, said there are two specialists and one clerk working estate recovery for Nevada. He said that since 1997 the unit has attempted to offset the costs of medical care using revenue generated from estate recovery.

"When a person applies for Medicaid the worker goes through a document called the Medicaid Recovery form," he said. "If the person is over 55, has no surviving spouse and no children under 21, and no disabled children, then their estate is subject to recovery."

Nevada has an appeal process in cases of grave hardship, and Salerno said they carefully consider these cases before dipping into the inheritance.

The process of estate recovery starts with the death notification. This is the same notification that goes out to creditors.

"We search our system and if we find that person in our system then we look up records and find the Medicare claims," he said. "As a state we pay Medicaid claims and Medicare premiums."

The specialist files the claims in probate court based on what type of estate the recipient left behind. All Medicaid claims are subject for reimbursement.

"Compared to all the states, we do a good job giving the resources we have," Salerno said.

n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.


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