CHA Supports AB 683 ~ Increased Asset Limits for Medi-Cal Programs Serving Older Adults & People with Disabilities

CHA Supports AB 683 ~ Increased Asset Limits for Medi-Cal Programs Serving Older Adults & People with Disabilities

California Health Advocates submitted the letter below in support of AB 683 (Carrillo) to increase the assets limits for Medi-Cal programs serving seniors and persons with disabilities.

The outdated Medi-Cal asset test, which has not changed since 1989, drives financial instability for seniors in a racially inequitable way, allowing only $2,000 in savings for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.

AB 683 would make three important changes to the Medi-Cal asset rules: (1) it will update the assets limits for programs serving seniors and persons with disabilities to $10,000 for an individual and an additional $5,000 for each additional household member, with annual indexing; (2) it will expand and simplify the list of items to be excluded from the assets test for those Medi-Cal programs still subject to the assets test; and (3) it will eliminate the assets test entirely for the Medicare Savings Programs, programs where Medi-Cal pays for an individual’s Medicare premiums and co-payments.


 

April 4, 2019
 

The Honorable Jim Wood Chair,
Assembly Health Committee
State Capitol, Room 6005
Sacramento, CA 95814
 

Re: Support for AB 683 (Carrillo)
 

Dear Assemblymember Wood:
 

California Health Advocates supports AB 683 (Carrillo) to increase the assets limits for Medi-Cal programs serving seniors and persons with disabilities.
 

California Health Advocates (CHA), a non-profit organization founded in 1997, is the leading Medicare advocacy and educational voice for more than 5.6 million Medicare beneficiaries in California. And we support the work of California’s Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP).
 

The outdated Medi-Cal asset test drives financial instability for seniors in a racially inequitable way. A senior enrolled in the Aged & Disabled Medi-Cal program, is restricted to $2,000 in a bank account and a couple to $3,000. These limits have not changed since 1989.
 

The current asset limit prevents seniors and persons with disabilities from having adequate resources to weather a crisis, such as an eviction, a leaking roof, or a major vehicle repair. When faced with the decision of qualifying for Medi-Cal or having additional savings, most seniors rationally spend down their savings as the cost of their health care is more than they have saved. This puts them at risk of further instability or homelessness when financial crises happen. These rules also disproportionately punish seniors of color or other ethnicities because they are more likely to have cash savings, instead of an exempt home.
 

As an example, when a person becomes eligible for Medicare when they turn 65 years of age, often they transition from California’s expanded Medi-Cal (MAGI) where assets are not considered, and now they are restricted to the $2000/$3,000 limits. If they are undergoing serious medical treatments, they are now faced with out-of-pocket expenses that put the continuation of their treatments, e.g. for cancer, in jeopardy because they cannot afford them.
 

AB 683 makes three important changes to the Medi-Cal asset rules: (1) it will update the assets limits for programs serving seniors and persons with disabilities to $10,000 for an individual and an additional $5,000 for each additional household member, with annual indexing; (2) it will expand and simplify the list of items to be excluded from the assets test for those Medi-Cal programs still subject to the assets test; and (3) it will eliminate the assets test entirely for the Medicare Savings Programs, programs where Medi-Cal pays for an individual’s Medicare premiums and co-payments.
 

California Health Advocates respectfully asks for your support of this important legislation to provide equity and stability for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities who are subject to the assets test.

 

Sincerely,

 

Tatiana Fassieux
Consultant & Training Specialist
California Health Advocates

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.