Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Public Benefits
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On appeal from a federal appellate court's decision that the Federal Medicare scheme prohibits State Medicaid agencies, including MassHealth, from receiving funds from Medicare, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered that this case be remanded for modification of the declaratory judgment, holding that MassHealth demonstrated a sufficient change in circumstances to warrant modification to allow MassHealth to seek reimbursement where the liable third party is Medicare.In Atlanticare Medical Center v. Commissioner of the Division of Medical Assistance, 439 Mass. 1, 3, 5 (2003) (Altanticare I), the Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the Federal Medicaid scheme tasked the State Medicaid agency, not individual providers, with seeking reimbursement from liable third-party insurers, including Medicare. When the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) refused to issue reimbursements from Medicare to MassHealth, MassHealth brought suit. In 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the Federal Medicare scheme prohibited MassHealth from receiving funds from Medicare. Therefore, a Federal Medicare regulation was amended to acknowledge the practice of State Medicaid agencies obtaining Medicare reimbursements through providers, rather than seeking such reimbursements directly from Medicare. MassHealth sought to modify the declaratory judgment and restore its ability to obtain reimbursements from providers, rather than liable third parties. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for modification of the judgment, holding that changed circumstances required modification. View "Atlanticare Medical Center v. Division of Medical Assistance" on Justia Law

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Neither the grant in an irrevocable trust of a right of occupancy and use in a primary residence to an applicant nor the retention of a life estate by the applicant in the applicant’s primary residence makes the equity in the home owned by the trust a countable asset for the purpose of determining Medicaid eligibility for long-term care benefits under the Federal Medicaid Act.At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court in these two cases was whether applicants were eligible for long-term care benefits under the Act Act where they created an irrevocable trust and deeded their home - their primary asset - to the trust but retained the right to use and reside in the home for the rest of their life. The Director of the Massachusetts Office of Medicaid (MassHealth) found that the applicants were not eligible for long-term care benefits. The superior court upheld MassHealth’s determinations. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgments in both cases because MassHealth found that the equity in both homes was a “countable” asset whose value exceeded the asset eligibility limitation under the Act. View "Daley v. Secretary of Executive Office of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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After Defendants were charged with Medicaid fraud, the Commonwealth obtained search warrants to obtain and search designated e-mail accounts of Defendants' former billing director. Defendants moved for a protective order, claiming that the attorney-client privilege protected many of the e-mails. A motion judge amended the order to permit the Commonwealth to search the e-mails by using a "taint team," assistant attorneys general not involved in the investigation or prosecution of Defendants. Defendants filed a petition seeking relief from the order. The Supreme Court answered reported questions from the county court by holding (1) the Commonwealth may, by means of an ex parte search warrant, search the post-indictment emails of a criminal defendant; and (2) the "taint team" procedure was permissible under the Massachusetts Constitution. View "Preventive Med. Assocs. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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This case involved Commonwealth Care, a state-initiated program that provided structured premium assistance for low-income Massachusetts residents. In 2009, the Legislature made certain changes to the eligibility requirements of Commonwealth Care, enacted in a two-part supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 2010. Section 31(a) of the appropriation excluded all aliens who were federally ineligible under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), 8 U.S.C. 1601-1646, from participation in Commonwealth Care. Plaintiffs were individuals who either have been terminated from Commonwealth Care or have been denied eligibility solely as a result of their alienage. The court held that section 31(a) could not pass strict scrutiny and that the discrimination against legal immigrants that its limiting language embodied violated their rights to equal protection under the Massachusetts Constitution. View "Finch & others v. Commonwealth Health Ins. Connector Auth. & others" on Justia Law

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This action arose when claimant, a former customer service representative for Verizon New England, Inc. ("Verizon"), was denied unemployment benefits. At issue was whether the board of review of the division of unemployed assistance ("board") erred because Verizon took the "last step" in the termination process that entitled claimant to unemployment benefits. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court, which affirmed the decision of the board, to deny claimant benefits because the court agreed with the board's conclusion that the claimant did not meet her burden of showing that her decision to leave was involuntary, where she was not compelled to apply for the termination, did not believe her job was in jeopardy, and left in part for personal reasons.