During the settlement process, a personal injury attorney needs to consider what government/public benefits their client is enrolled in and what they may be eligible for in the future. Several questions need to be asked. Have you considered Medicare’s interest in the settlement?  How will the settlement proceeds be handled?  Will a lump sum payment disqualify them from their government benefits? These questions need to be addressed because a client’s settlement could have long-lasting financial implications.
When it comes to settling a case with public benefits there are many nuances to consider. Hiring a team of experts such as an Elder and Special Needs Law Attorney, a Structure Settlement Broker, a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) Allocator, and/or a Trust Advisor can assist you in protecting your client’s benefits and preserving the settlement proceeds.


Getting Familiar With Public Benefits

Public benefits can either be federal or state-run programs.  If the benefits program is run by the state, each state has its own set of criteria for eligibility.  Needs-based public benefits are also known as asset means-tested public benefits.  Asset means-tested means that eligibility is based on an individual’s income level and assets.  To learn more about all the different types of government benefits Gov/Benefits.
Government benefits are categorized into two types which are Needs-Based Benefits and Entitlement Benefits.
  1. Needs-Based Benefits – Also referred to as “means-tests,” these are based on an individual’s income and/or assets
  2. Non-Needs Based Benefits Aka Entitlements Based – These are determined by what an individual has contributed or paid into a given benefits system

Common Government Benefits

Below is a list and summary of the most frequently used government benefit programs. However, this is not a complete list, and a full investigation of a client’s use of government benefits should be conducted before the settlement process begins.


Government national health insurance program in the United States, begun in 1965 under the Social Security Administration and now administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It is intended for people who are 65 or older,  certain younger people with disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease.

Social Security Disability (SSDI)

Payroll tax-funded federal insurance program of the United States government. It is managed by the Social Security Administration and designed to provide monthly benefits to people who have a medically determinable disability that restricts their ability to be employed.

Social Security Income (SSI)

Means-tested program that provide cash payments to disabled children, disabled adults, and individuals aged 65 or older who are citizens or nationals of the United States.


Health coverage programs operated by states, within broad federal guidelines. Although the federal government pays a portion of the costs, Medicaid is administered and operated by states, and each state’s program is different and based on the needs and goals of the individual state.

Medicaid Adult / Disability-Based

  • Permanently disabled & unable to work
  • Only Income Test applies in California
  • Income & Asset Test applies
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients
  • In-Home Support Services (IHSS) recipients
  • Home & community-based waivers participants
  • Long-Term Care Facility residents

Medicaid Adult / Non-Disability Based

  • Able to work & income is below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
  • MAGI Medicaid on household income
  • Assets are not counted toward
  • Pregnant women

Medicaid – Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

This program is administered by the United States Department of health and Human Services that provides matching funds to states for health insurance to families with children.

Section 8 – Housing Assistance

The housing choice voucher program aids very low-income families to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Housing can include single-family homes, townhouses and apartments and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects. Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs).

Veterans Administration (VA)

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs of the federal government providing life-long healthcare services to eligible military veterans at VA medical centers and outpatient clinics.

Our Complimentary Reference Guide for Government Benefit Protection

For further information on how to protect your clients’ government benefits after a settlement, Medivest would like to provide the following data chart. It summarizes a variety of public benefit programs and the best course of action you can take to ensure their benefits are protected.  Click here to download.


We’ve all heard how important it is to establish a plan for how our affairs are to be handled after we die. It also comes as no surprise that this plan is best established before we die. Though I have not died yet, all evidence seems to indicate that I will have an exceedingly difficult time addressing these details once I’m dead. Despite this evidence, it is estimated that around half of all Americans have no estate planning whatsoever. So, it should not come as a surprise that those with a Medicare Set-Aside account likewise have no clear plan established for what happens to any funds that may remain once they die. Not having a clear plan can create confusion and aggravation for those responsible to sort out or benefit from the settling of an estate. Addressing these questions at the outset can avoid a lot of trouble. So, what are the main considerations?

Reversionary Interest

Sometimes a settlement will establish a reversionary interest for any remaining Medicare-Set Aside funds. For instance, it may have been agreed that a percentage or all unused funds at the time of the claimant/applicant’s death are to be returned to the funding party. If true, this is a detail that the executor of the estate will want to know. Reversionary Interest arrangements are becoming more popular as a tool in settlements, as more and more Medicare Set-Asides are professionally administered with better cost controls and preservation.

Medicare Set-Asides held within Trusts may be Subject to Specific Rules

If the Medicare Set-Aside was placed in a Special Needs Trust (SNT) to protect access to means tested benefits like Medicaid, or was placed in some other type of trust, there may be a special arrangement already in place that governs what happens to the Medicare Set-Aside funds once the trust beneficiary passes away. If unsure, consult the trust officer as to whether they require any specific guidance, or if the final destiny of the MSA funds have been already decided by agreement or statute.

Tell the Professional Administrator Your Intentions

One advantage of professional administration is that it is more likely that some funds will survive the claimant/applicant due to the strategies a professional administrator leverages. Another advantage is that a professional administrator will disburse all funds it administers directly to the beneficiary designated by the claimant/applicant. Most professional administrators will request that the claimant/applicant designate their beneficiary in writing at the time the account is established. Still, it is not rare for a professional administrator to never receive the claimant/applicant’s written intent. This sometimes causes issues when the final MSA balance is disbursed to the claimant/applicant’s estate.
Also, sometimes life situations will change the intended beneficiary of the Medicare Set-Aside funds. If this changes, it is vitally important to record that change in writing with the professional administrator, to ensure that the claimant/applicant’s wishes are followed. Remember, the professional administrator can only follow the most recent guidance provided by the claimant/applicant.

Medicare’s Interest Must Be Considered

Family members and/or the executor of a claimant/applicant’s estate are typically motivated to settle arrangements as quickly as possible. However, it is important to remember that the Medicare Set-Aside was established to pay for Medicare allowable and injury-related expenses post settlement. Medical providers have a filing window in which to bill for medical services rendered or medications and supplies dispensed or sold. Often, allowable medical claims are received within the first 12 months following a claimant’s death, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expects the Medicare Set-Aside to pay as primary to Medicare for those claims, even if those claims are received after the claimant/applicant’s death. A best practice is to reserve the MSA funds for a period of twelve months (or until it is confirmed that final billing has taken place) to pay for allowable expenses before disbursing the MSA funds to the designated beneficiary(ies).


Medicare Set-Aside funds are a special type of asset that must be treated differently. They’re intended to protect a claimant/applicant’s access to Medicare benefits, as well as protect the Medicare Trust Funds from unlawfully paying when other funds are primary. But, like other assets, it’s important to declare and/or confirm where these funds are to go once the claimant/applicant passes away to avoid confusion and/or dispute over where those funds eventually go.
You can count on Medivest to help guide you through the complexities of Medicare Set-Aside arrangements. If you have questions about preparing or administering a MSA or you need consultation on any of our settlement services, call us at 877.725.2467 or reach out to us online here.


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