The Obama Administration on Friday set forth new policy guidelines expanding states’ ability to provide same-sex couples with the same protections offered to heterosexual couples when they receive long-term care under Medicaid.
The Department of Health and Human Service’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued advised state agencies of their ability to ensure that same-sex partners can remain in shared homes without Medicaid liens being applied.
Under the new guidance, dated June 10, states have the option to allow healthy partners in a same-sex relationship to keep their homes while their partners are receiving support for long-term care under Medicaid, such as care in a nursing home.
Medicaid kicks in for a beneficiary to receive care after an individual depletes virtually all of their money. To pay for the beneficiary’s expenses under Medicaid, a state could impose a lein, or take possession, of a beneficiary’s home to pay for Medicaid expenses.
However, federal law prohibits imposing this lein if beneficiaries are married to someone of the opposite-sex who’s still living in their home.
The HHS guidance, however, stops shorts of being a state mandate due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act — same-sex couples in states that choose not to take these steps remain vulnerable.
“We want to assure states that they are within the law when they make the choice to extend equal financial rights and protections to all of their citizens receiving Medicaid services, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Cindy Mann, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) who directs the Medicaid division within the agency.
HSS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the guidance “represents another important step toward ensuring that the rights and dignity of every American are respected by their government.”