MEDICAID STATUTE - INELIGIBILITY
PERIOD - LEGISLATIVE INTENT
Where a statute provides
a choice between one option or another, the court will respect a state agency's
[SUMMARY] | [ISSUE
& DISPOSITION] | [AUTHORITIES CITED] | [COMMENTARY]
Petitioners applied for Medicaid with the Suffolk County Department of Social
Services ("DSS"). Both federal and state Medicaid statutes prescribe
ineligibility periods for individuals who make transfers of assets for below-market
value. In pertinent part, the state provision, Social
Services Law § 366(5)(d)(4), reads: "[t]he period of ineligibility shall
begin with the first day of the first month during or after which assets have
been transferred for less than fair market value." After hearings, the
county DSS fixed Petitioners' periods of ineligibility to start on the first
day of the first month after the transfers.
Petitioners brought administrative challenges, and the state DSS sustained
the county DSS. Petitioners then brought an Article
78 proceeding, arguing that the statute required the DSS to commence ineligibility
on the first day during, not after, the month in which the transfer took place.
The supreme court ruled for Petitioners and ordered that the agency calculate
the ineligibility period from the month of the transfer. The Appellate Division
affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and dismissed Petitioners' complaints.
ISSUE & DISPOSITION
Whether a Medicaid statute specifying that an
ineligibility period should begin on "the first day of the first month during
or after" a below-market value transfer allows the Department of Social Services
to choose to begin the period in the month after the transfer.
Yes. The court's role in interpreting statutes
is to give effect to legislative intent. The use of the disjunctive "or" gives
plain-language support for such an interpretation and an alternative interpretation
would render another section of the statute meaningless. This interpretation is
reinforced by the fact that a previous version of statute did not use the disjunctive.
Cases Cited by the Court
v. Samuels, 507 U.S. 99 (1993).
U. S. A., Inc. v. Nat'l Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).
v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc., 458 U.S. 564 (1982).
- Golf v. N.Y.
State Dept. of Soc. Servs., 91 N.Y.2d 656 (N.Y. 1998).
- Raritan Dev. Corp.
v. Silva, 91 N.Y.2d 98 (N.Y. 1997).
v. Pennisi, 90 N.Y.2d 296 (N.Y. 1997).
- Scotto v. Dinkins, 85
N.Y.2d 209 (N.Y. 1995).
Other Sources Cited by the Court