Can My Nursing Home Take My Stimulus Check?
Many people and households suffered serious financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security (CARES) Act, which, in part, provided stimulus checks to millions of Americans. Each adult who earned less than $99,000 per year should have received a $1,200 check to aid with the economic struggles of the pandemic. This included seniors in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
As time passed, reports began surfacing that some nursing homes were trying to require residents covered by Medicaid to sign over their stimulus checks to the facilities. Many unknowing seniors assumed this was a valid requirement and handed over their CARES Act payments. However, this requirement is wrongful, and nursing home residents should have been able to keep their stimulus funds.
Stimulus Payments are Tax Credits
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are able to take income received by residents who receive Medicaid benefits. Residents are allowed to retain a small allowance for personal needs, but otherwise, facilities can take other income received by residents. However, there is an important distinction between income and the CARES Act stimulus check. This is because the stimulus payments are categorized as tax credits under the law.
While Medicaid has income and asset thresholds for eligibility, tax refunds and credits are not considered to be income or assets for this purpose. Federal benefit programs do not consider the stimulus payments to be a resource that counts for eligibility and, therefore, nursing home residents should be able to retain these funds without any impact on their Medicaid coverage. This is similar to how the law treats other federal benefits, such as:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly referred to as food stamps)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The stimulus check should not affect a nursing home resident’s share of cost, also known as the patient pay amount, and residents should be able to save or spend their stimulus funds however they see fit.
Penalties for Nursing Homes
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) responded to reports that nursing homes are taking stimulus checks from residents and reminded facilities that this would be a prohibited practice. In fact, nursing homes found guilty of seizing CARES Act payments could face penalties imposed by federal authorities, as well as risk being terminated from Medicaid and Medicare programs.
Specifically, taking stimulus checks from residents could be viewed as the misappropriation of resident property, as well as depriving residents of the right to manage their own financial affairs. These are violations of federal law, and nursing homes could be prosecuted.
Did Your Loved One Turn Over Their Stimulus Check?
Many nursing home residents might not be aware of their rights to keep their stimulus payments, and they might have already turned over their checks. In this situation – or if a nursing home is trying to seize a check – you should contact an elder law attorney for assistance right away.