“You have more choices if you have money.  That’s the world we live in,” partner Steven Cohen was recently quoted in a Boston Globe Spolight article.  The article revealed the daunting truth about the nursing home application process in Massachusetts – nursing homes unmistakably discriminate against applicants receiving MassHealth benefits.

In the nearly year-long investigation, the Boston Globe team contacted more than 200 of the Commonwealth’s roughly 380 nursing homes.  The team posed as caretaker children inquiring about available care for their elderly mothers.  Each nursing home was approached by two “different” applicants: the first, who had the means to privately pay for her care; and the second, who would rely on MassHealth benefits.  The results were clear – nursing homes were more than twice as likely to say they had no room for the MassHealth applicant than the private pay applicant.

Despite protections adopted in Massachusetts barring nursing homes from discriminating against current or prospective MassHealth applicants, in practice, nursing homes are less enthusiastic about applicants receiving MassHealth benefits.  While the nursing homes fell back on fluctuating capacities and daily changes in bed availability as the reason for this discrepancy, the response was clear.  In fact, a former nursing home administrator who worked for various Massachusetts nursing homes for 40 years, admitted to the Globe that one of the nursing homes where she worked never took applicants receiving MassHealth benefits, turning them away by saying “there is ‘no available bed’ or ‘we have nothing right now.’”  Nursing homes are not forced to participate in MassHealth, but those who use taxpayer funding are bound by state antidiscrimination regulations.  With MassHealth paying for 70% of nursing home stays, nursing homes are hard-pressed to reject MassHealth applicants entirely.

Unfortunately, the results come as no surprise to many long-term care and estate planning attorneys.  This discrimination emphasizes the importance for advanced planning for a transition into a nursing home.  The earlier a nursing home applicant can identify their future need for care, the more planning options that will be available to them.  That being said, with few solutions to the nursing home discrimination, partner Steven Cohen advises “You should expect to pay privately for some period of time.”

To read the entire article visit: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/09/28/metro/spotlight-team-probe-potential-medicaid-discrimination-massachusetts-nursing-homes/.