Jane’s partner, Carol, was diagnosed with a terminal illness late in 2004. By the time the disease had progressed to the point that Carol required full-time care, she had already spent most of her assets on medical bills. Carol applied for and was placed on medical assistance, which provided her with around-the-clock care in the final months of her life.
Following Carol’s death, the state placed a lien on their home — the home Jane and Carol shared for more than 15 years. By law, the state had the legal power to enforce the lien and recover the money it spent for Carol’s medical expenses. Jane was faced with the prospect of selling her home to pay off the state.
However, had Jane and Carol been married, Minnesota law would have protected the home. Current law provides that the state cannot enforce a medical assistance lien on the home of the person who received aid if the person’s spouse still lives in the house. In these cases, the state must wait until after the spouse has died before it can recoup money from the home’s equity.
(While this story is true, the names of the people were changed at their request.)