MY VIEW • Estate recovery helps government recoup some costs
by: JIM CLARK, Ray Sahli wife’s long-term care was partially paid by the state before she died. One reader says it only makes sense that the state should be able to claim marital property like houses after both spouses die, in part to help pay for care for others.

I am compelled to write in response to the article 'Two ways to lose a home' (Feb. 8).

I would like to preface by saying I am in the social services field and a huge advocate for the underserved in our communities so often overlooked by our government.

Having said that, I am baffled as to why anyone would oppose the Oregon Department of Human Services' new rules regarding estate recovery. You quote Ray Sahli as saying, 'I worked hard all my life, I paid into the system. Now they want to pick on people who go into nursing homes? Where's the fairness in that?'

How is helping this family with government assistance picking on them? I do not question this family's devotion to their loved one - having a family member with Alzheimer's is devastating.

But why should the children of this couple inherit their parents' estate when they are not the ones who paid for her care?

I would ask, Where is the fairness in the state paying for his wife's care and then allowing the adult children to inherit Mr. Sahli's estate after he dies?

The state would not attempt to recoup any funds spent on Mrs. Sahli until after Mr. Sahli's death; he would be allowed to stay in his own home indefinitely.

With the state recouping the cost of the care (only up to the value of the estate), it is able to maintain a source of funding to provide this needed service and care to others. It is through estate recovery that the state is able to continue to provide exactly the service the Sahlis need.

No one is picking on Mr. Sahli.

As near as I can tell, our government is doing a great job by helping him and his wife during what is surely a very painful and difficult time. I am grateful to our government for having such a program in place that helps the Sahlis of our state.

I find it ironic that the family and others are willing to participate in this program that has always been funded, partially, with money recovered from estates, but they don't want to participate in funding it.

Maybe we should be asking why we don't have universal health care coverage, instead of asking why the Sahlis can't pass on their wealth to their children when they needed the state to step in and help with health care costs?

Until we have adequate health care coverage for every person, the estate recovery program is a needed and valuable part of the Medicaid system in Oregon that allows many families to benefit from the same services as the Sahli family.

Debbie Lamberger does process improvement project management at Oregon Health and Science University. She lives in Southwest Portland.

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