Guardianship Fees Deducted From Patient’s “Share of Cost”

FEBRUARY 3, 1997 VOLUME 4, NUMBER 31

Mary Perry was admitted to a Massachusetts hospital in 1991. After treatment was completed, the hospital sought her discharge to a nursing home that November. Unfortunately, Ms. Perry lacked both capacity and resources.

The Massachusetts court appointed a guardian to make placement decisions for her, and she was promptly placed in an appropriate nursing home. A Medicaid application was completed, and Ms. Perry qualified for government assistance with her nursing home expenses.

Once Ms. Perry’s care was arranged and eligibility obtained, the Medicaid agency turned to the question of how much Ms. Perry would need to contribute (from her monthly Social Security check) toward her care. Ms. Perry’s “share of cost” was calculated, and payments began.

Meanwhile, Ms. Perry’s guardian sought approval of the fees and costs incurred in securing the guardianship, making (and implementing) the placement decisions and applying for Medicaid coverage. The Massachusetts court approved the guardian’s fees, and ordered that payments could be made from her monthly Social Security check.

Unfortunately, Ms. Perry’s personal needs allowance (the state Medicaid program was leaving her only a small amount each month) was insufficient to both provide for her personal needs and pay the accumulated guardianship fees. Ms. Perry’s guardian therefore applied for a reduction in the “share of cost” amount to permit the guardian’s fees to be paid. In support, the guardian argued that the fees were required to obtain medical care, and that medical expenses may be deducted from the share of cost amount.

Massachusetts’ Medicaid agency denied the request, citing HCFA (Health Care Financing Administration) regulations categorizing guardianship expenses as not related to medical costs. The guardian appealed to the state courts.

The Massachusetts judge has now ruled that guardianship costs are “necessary medical expenses” when they are required to obtain consent to medical treatment. Under the law of informed consent, Ms. Perry’s treatment could not be undertaken without approval from a surrogate; since she had made no provision for surrogates herself (such as by executing a power of attorney for health care), the guardianship was required before treatment decisions could be made. Perry v. Bullen, Mass. Super. Ct., May 31, 1996.

Arizona law is similar to Massachusetts’ provisions, and a similar result might be expected. ALTCS regulations provide that the share of cost may be reduced by a “noncovered medical or remedial expense” incurred during the three months before application, but then makes a list of allowable expenses. Not surprisingly, guardianship (or legal) fees are not included. ALTCS does permit “other non-covered medically necessary services which the member petitions AHCCCS for and which the Director approves,” (ALTCS Eligibility Policy and Procedure Manual §1016.2.C.2.b.vii) but it seems unlikely that would quickly concede the point.

Nonetheless, guardianship may legitimately be required before nursing home placement can be secured and an ALTCS application completed. How can these expenses be paid if the ward has no assets? One obvious choice is to make a referral to the Public Fiduciary’s office, but if family are actively involved they may be instructed to initiate their own proceeding. If family members are reluctant (or have insufficient resources to pay for the guardianship themselves), the facility may find itself at an impasse.

Relying on the logic of the Perry case, an argument can be made that the costs of securing the guardianship should be paid from the patient’s ultimate share of cost calculation. While this result might not be easily obtained, Perry gives valuable support.

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