New Research Released to Guide States on Implementing Medicaid Protections for Same-Sex Couples
The research reports, published by The Williams Institute at UCLA, will be used by SAGE to support its Spousal Impoverishment Protections Initiative, which aims to extend these protections to all 50 states.
Medicaid serves as the single largest payer of long-term care in the United States, which is often necessary for older adults and people with disabilities who need institutional or in-home health services.
Medicaid qualification rules include a series of "spousal impoverishment" protections that aim to prevent a healthy spouse from having to give up a family home or retirement savings, and live in poverty, in order to qualify his/her spouse for Medicaid. Unfortunately, these protections generally do not apply to same-sex couples.
In June 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that states could extend some of these important protections to same-sex couples.
"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services took a big step last summer to protect same-sex partners who are seeking long-term care under Medicaid from having to choose between necessary long-term care and living in poverty," said Michael Adams, Executive Director of SAGE. "But now, the responsibility for extending these protections rests with state policymakers, and The Williams Institute's new reports provide clear, well-researched guidance for their work."
SAGE's Spousal Impoverishment Protections Initiative supports aging advocates working to ensure that all 50 states provide spousal impoverishment protections to same-sex couples. SAGE will help move their work forward by providing educational materials and other resources to advocates, and connecting them with others around the country who can offer relevant advice.
The Spousal Impoverishment Protections Initiative is already producing results. In November 2011, a month after SAGE issued guidance on these protections to New York State officials, the New York Office of Health Insurance Programs sent a letter to departments of social services across the state that extended spousal impoverishment protections to all legally married couples. Alphonso B. David, Esq., Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights for New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, stated, "Marriage equality in New York State means that all legally married couples are entitled to the hundreds of benefits and protections conferred by marriage. This notice to social services districts to treat marriages between same-sex couples equally with respect to Medicaid eligibility and case decisions is one of the many ways that our state ensures that all New Yorkers can age with dignity and respect."
In addition, in May 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved a California bill passed last October that extended these protections to same-sex registered domestic partners and same-sex married couples.
To download the new reports, visit The Williams Institute at http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/uncategorized/medicaid-reports-june-2012/
For more information on SAGE's Spousal Impoverishment Protections Initiative, including a state advocacy guide for understanding spousal impoverishment protections, visit sageusa.org/spousalimpoverishment.
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competence training through SAGECare. With staff in New York City, Washington, DC and Chicago, SAGE coordinates a growing network of 30 SAGE affiliates in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Learn more at sageusa.org and lgbtagingcenter.org.