Ending the Pandemic Designation: Part Two

For the first time since 2020, when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed in response to the pandemic designation, it is expected that the assistance plans put in place to help those receiving public benefits will come to a close at the end of March.

As you probably recall, the CARES Act included a massive economic stimulus plan which included economic impact payments to provide some relief for Americans who were suffering financially. People who qualified for these payments included almost anyone on Medicaid – a cause for concern because it could put an individual over the asset eligibility limit and jeopardize their continued benefits, or it could count as income and must be paid to the facility as part of their patient liability.

To offer relief for those on public benefits, many states, including Wisconsin, temporarily suspended certain Medicaid and Family Care rules. The suspension, which we wrote about in an August 2020 blog post, included things such as stimulus payments, annual renewals and continuing benefits for those who were over assets.

It wasn’t until 2022 that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) started to focus on how these rules would return to normal. We also wrote about how the ending of the pandemic designation would affect benefits in a another post, but since then, we had been left guessing as to when and how things would change – until now.

With the signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act on December 29, 2022, Congress has now provided clarity on how states can now unwind these temporary suspensions. This Act de-coupled the provision of additional Medicaid funding from the federal designation due to the pandemic, ensuring that those who rely on these services can once again access them securely.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has an in-depth review of the various changes included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act. 

With the newly enacted law, we anticipate that the additional benefits will end effective as of March 31, 2023. Any applications submitted prior to that date will be grouped in with existing MA recipients. Any applications submitted for the first time after April 1, 2023, will be subject to the “normal” rules regarding asset thresholds and gifting.

What does that mean for recipients of public benefits?

  1. DHS has a website they are using to update MA recipients on the status of the pandemic designation and rule changes.
  2. DHS has committed to sending notice to all existing MA recipients in “mid-March.” This notice will tell all existing recipients of their new renewal month – there will not be a correlation to a client’s pre-pandemic renewal month.
  3. The state will use 12 months after the end of the designation to work through all the existing benefit recipients, to confirm who is still eligible and who is no longer eligible. Essentially, one-twelfth of the current Medicaid recipients will be renewed each month for the first year following the end of the designation.
  4. DHS is strongly encouraging all MA recipients to make sure their contact information is updated with the income maintenance consortium – to ensure that mailings are sent to the correct address.
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Jon L. Fischer

Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Jon focuses his practice on estate planning, probate matters, and Medicaid planning as he aims to help clients in their time of need.