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Muir v. Kan. Health Policy Auth.

Court of Appeals of Kansas

September 5, 2014

PATRICK J. MUIR, Appellant,
v.
KANSAS HEALTH POLICY AUTHORITY, Appellee

Appeal from Johnson District Court; DAVID W. HAUBER, judge.

SYLLABUS

BY THE COURT

The Kansas Health Policy Authority did not erroneously interpret the law or act arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably when it calculated a Medicaid recipient's available income that could be used to pay the cost of medical care without first deducting amounts that the person had been ordered to pay in child support and maintenance.

Timothy J. Muir, Kent M. Dryer, and Matthew Dykstra, of Muir Law Firm, LLC, of Overland Park, for appellant.

Brian M. Vazquez, of Kansas Department of Health and Environment, for appellee.

Before LEBEN, P.J., GREEN and HILL, JJ.

OPINION

Page 877

Leben, J.:

Patrick Muir is an adult resident of a long-term-care facility, and he qualifies for Kansas Medicaid assistance. Under state and federal Medicaid law, a certain amount of his monthly income from disability payments is protected income that he can keep, but the rest of his income is deemed " available income" that he must pay toward his care before Medicaid will pay the rest of the costs. See 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(17) (2006); K.A.R. 30-6-53(3) (2009).

Muir challenges a state agency ruling that he may not take part of his disability income and use it to pay child support for his two children and maintenance to his former spouse. Instead, the agency determined that his child support and maintenance obligations did not make some funds exempt from the otherwise " available income" that he must pay toward his care. He argues that the agency wrongly interpreted the law and acted arbitrarily.

But closely related federal regulations specifically provide that amounts owed for child support or maintenance aren't excluded when calculating a person's available income in the form of Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. The federal government provided a rationale for that rule: otherwise, the SSI payments made by the government would " subsidize child support obligations or other debts, which is not its purpose as a program designed to meet the subsistence needs of its claimants only." 56 Fed. Reg. 3209-11 (January 29, 1991).

The State of Kansas may apply the same rationale to its Medicaid program, making sure that it provides only the required assistance to the Medicaid beneficiary rather than also subsidizing--directly or indirectly--the beneficiary's child-support or maintenance payments. The state agency in Muir's case did not misinterpret any statute or regulation; nor did it act arbitrarily. We therefore affirm the district court, which upheld the agency's ruling.

Factual and Procedural Background

We begin our review with the background facts necessary to our decision. Muir became

Page 878

a quadriplegic with no feeling below his chest after a surgery in 2002 that attempted to correct a serious malformation in his spine. At the time, Muir was in his late 30's and lived with his wife and two children.

He continued to live at home with his family until August 2009, when he moved into a long-term-care facility. He receives $2,244 per month in Social Security disability payments and $2,323.17 from a private disability-insurance policy, giving him a total income of $4,567.17 per month.

Two additional events set the stage for the legal dispute now before us. First, Muir's wife filed for divorce in March 2010. The parties settled the case in May 2010, agreeing that Muir would pay $598 per month in maintenance for 121 months and that he would pay $1,430 per month in child support (the children were then 12 and 10). At the time of the divorce, Muir's ...


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