Attempting to Receive Retroactive Medicaid Benefits
In Massachusetts, Medicaid coverage of nursing home costs is obtained by filing a MassHealth long-term care application. Coverage under a MassHealth application can be retroactive to the first day of the third month prior to the application.
Based on the date that MassHealth is needed, in many cases you must keep the original application alive. If an applicant receives a denial due to missing verifications and mails in missing verifications within thirty (30) days after the denial, that action is treated as a new application, causing a new application date, which affects the maximum time period that MassHealth can be retroactive. A later application date can also cause the date of payments of medical or nursing home bills to become important to whether retroactive MassHealth benefits will be allowed. For example, suppose Jane applies for MassHealth on December 19, needing coverage as of September 20. Under this application, MassHealth can be retroactive to as early as September 1. Only the original application, however, will obtain the needed retroactivity. If Jane receives a denial on February 5 due to missing verifications and submits one or more of them during February, a new application is deemed to exist, and its maximum retroactive date would be November 1.
The treatment of previously-paid expenses can be affected by the timing of the MassHealth application. Medical and nursing home expenses that are less than ninety (90) days in the past are allowed as part of the spenddown process, known as a Haley spenddown, whenever they are paid, but if those expenses precede the MassHealth application by more than ninety (90) days, then those expenses may be disallowed. If we also suppose in the example in the previous paragraph that Jane sold stock and received the proceeds on December 3 and immediately paid the nursing home at its private pay rate for the September 1-September 20 period, that action would have no impact on the effective retroactive date of MassHealth coverage for the original application. The result would be difficult if the denial of the original application were not appealed. Under a new application, that action could change the maximum retroactive date of the later application to December 3.
MassHealth regulations allow a successful appeal of a denial to keep the original application alive. If Jane appeals the denial instead of just sending in the missing verifications, a new application would not be deemed to exist, and the original application would be preserved, thereby allowing MassHealth coverage retroactive to the earliest possible date.
When these procedures are not followed, the result can be that the nursing home will not be paid far enough retroactively by MassHealth and the MassHealth applicant will be responsible for the unpaid amount. As a last resort, the only possible way to cover the shortfall could be to make a request to MassHealth that the unpaid nursing home bill be paid over time via deductions from Jane’s monthly income. See Pre-eligibility Medical Expenses Can Be Paid from MassHealth Recipient’s Income. Although MassHealth would have been required to cover the bill if the appeal process had been correctly followed, there would be no guarantee that MassHealth would help Jane and the nursing home on previously-disallowed nursing home bill.