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Contrary to the Independent “Research” of the Office of the Attorney General, the Definition of “Available” Was in MassHealth Regulations from 10/1/1999-12/31/2013

May 15, 2016

In a Suffolk Superior Court case where my client is challenging the Office of Medicaid’s ludicrous legal position that a home in an irrevocable trust is always a countable asset if it is “available” (which to the agency now means you can use it), I pointed out that the definition of that word was removed from the MassHealth regulation at 130 CMR 515.001 on January 1, 2014.  Before then, the word “available” was defined as “a resource that is countable under Title XIX of the Social Security Act.”  To my great dismay, a lawyer from the Office of the Attorney General who is defending the agency’s actions in this case performed her own independent “research” and “reviewed the official regulations” back to 1998 and reported in her brief to the Court that the word “available” was never defined in MassHealth regulations.

Apparently, the lawyer from the Office of the Attorney General was so independent in her research that she never ran her research findings by her actual client.  If she had done so, the Office of Medicaid would probably have been forced to inform her that MassHealth regulatory changes are attached to Eligibility Letters, and that Eligibility Letters dating back to 2002 can be found on the MassHealth part of mass.gov, the official website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Thus, the definition of the word “available” before January 1, 2014 can be easily found online, attached to official MassHealth documents.

Let’s first look at Eligibility Letter 195 in 2010.   On page 6, there is the definition that the Attorney General’s lawyer supposedly was looking for elsewhere but could not find: “Available – a resource that is countable under Title XIX of the Social Security Act.” That definition is on the first page of 515.001. This Eligibility Letter also tells us where to find the last change to the page that this definition is on.  Moving back to page 1 of the Eligibility Letter, under Manual Upkeep, in the Insert column, look for 515.001 (1 of 8); looking across the row, it tells us that the last time that page was changed was in E.L. (Eligibility Letter) 147.

Now let’s look at Eligibility Letter 147 in 2006.   On page 3, there it is again: “Available – a resource that is countable under Title XIX of the Social Security Act.”  On page 2, under Manual Upkeep, in the Insert column, look for 515.001 (1 of 8); looking across the row, it tells us that the last time it was changed was in E.L. (Eligibility Letter) 95.

Now let’s look at Eligibility Letter 95 in 2002.   On page 17, once again, we find the definition that the Office of the Attorney General claims never existed: “Available – a resource that is countable under Title XIX of the Social Security Act.”  On page 2, under Manual Upkeep, in the Insert column, look for 515.001 (1 of 8); looking across the row, it tells us that the last time it was changed was in E.L. (Eligibility Letter) 72, which we cannot find on the MassHealth part of mass.gov, as the Eligibility Letter must have been issued before 2002.

The Plymouth Law Library has assisted me in looking further backwards.  Here is what I was informed via email, with pre-2002 research into whether available was and wasn’t in MassHealth regulations attached to the email:

The method for tracing back regulations used by the Trial Court law libraries is to use the annual cumulative table of changes and then pull the specific Mass. Registers containing the appropriate amendments.  Because Plymouth only has the former CMR pages going back to 2009, I contacted the Hampshire Law Library for assistance.  The staff member determined that the word “available” first appeared in 130 CMR 515.001 as of Oct. 1, 1999.  If you look at the filing sheet under the section called “Summary of Regulation,” it says the Division became aware of the need for revisions pursuant to the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 so apparently it took the agency several years to realize the necessary changes required under the federal law.

Attached to this email is the filing sheet from Mass. Register 877 and 130 CMR 515.001 (page 771 dated 9/3/99) showing that the word “available” was not included under the list of definitions.  After those three pages is the filing sheet from Mass. Register 879 and 130 CMR 515.001 (page 771 dated 10/1/99) which does include the definition for “available.”

Earlier research by the Plymouth Law Library into the definition of available since 2000 had also shown that the word “available” was defined until the end of 2013.

Why is the definition of “available” in 130 CMR 515.001 important? Because it proves that from October 1, 1999, when the agency first implemented the 1993 federal Medicaid trust law, until January 1, 2014, when the definition disappeared from MassHealth regulations, the official position of the agency was that a home in a trust was available if it was countable. The agency in this case is trying to get away with arguing the exact opposite, that a home in a trust is countable if it is available, and is arguing that the word means something completely different than how it has been interpreted by the agency in the past.

How is it that the research done by the Office of the Attorney General found that the word “available” was never in the “official version of regulations,” while the agency itself has copies of its own official publications on its part of the Massachusetts governmental website, showing the word defined? Why is that the Office of the Attorney General strangely did not confirm its research findings with the agency itself?  It is indeed troubling that the Office of the Attorney General, the highest legal arm of Massachusetts government, cannot be counted on to be thorough in its legal research process.

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