Medicaid as Coverture

45 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2015

See all articles by Thomas Simmons

Thomas Simmons

University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law

Date Written: May 28, 2015


Antiquated views of women’s property rights and the status conferred by a marital relationship deprived a woman of separate property rights, treated the spouses as one unit incapable of contracting with one another, and transferred liability for one spouse’s debts to the other. These archaic, even offensive laws were largely repealed in the mid-nineteenth century. Today, women expect to enjoy a legal existence that is not consumed by the status of marriage, and to exercise property rights largely free from interference or paternalism. An examination of Medicaid eligibility rules reveals the retention and even reinstatement of the legal fiction of spousal unity. On account of the substantial risk of wealth loss to nursing home costs, Medicaid eligibility rules represent a disquieting view of married women’s separate property rights.

Keywords: Medicaid, Feminism, Legal History, Long Term Care, Asset Protection

JEL Classification: K30

Suggested Citation

Simmons, Thomas, Medicaid as Coverture (May 28, 2015). Hastings Women's Law Journal, Vol. 26, p. 275, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Thomas Simmons (Contact Author)

University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law ( email )

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Law School suite 212
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605.658.3533 (Phone)
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