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History of Federal Medicaid Law Indicates the Term “Available” Is to Be Narrowly Construed When Determining Applicant’s Income

May 18, 2014

In State of Washington v. Bowen, 815 F. 2d 549 (9th Cir., 1987) the Court delved into the term “available” as utilized in the context of Medicaid law, and determined that the term must be narrowly construed. “As used in public assistance statutes, the term “available” typically functions as a restrictive term defining a subcategory of “income.” See, e.g., Heckler v. Turner, 470 U.S. 184, 200, 105 S.Ct. 1138, 1147, 83 L.Ed.2d 138 (1985); Gray Panthers, 453 U.S. at 48, 101 S.Ct. at 2642; Schrader v. Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare, 768 F.2d 1107, 1110 (9th Cir.1985); Young v. Schweiker, 680 F.2d 680, 682 (9th Cir.1982). The legislative history of the Medicaid statute also indicates that “available” should be read as a limiting term. The Senate report accompanying the Medicaid legislation provided: States [are required] to take into account only such income and resources as … are actually available to the applicant or recipient…. States [are] not [to] assume the availability of income which may not, in fact, be available or overevaluate income and resources which are available. S.Rep. No. 404, 89th Cong., 1st Sess. 78 (1965), reprinted in 1965 U.S. Code Cong. & Ad. News pp. 1943, 2018.”

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