Court Must Take Medicaid Law Into Account When Deciding Spouse's Support Claim

A Michigan appeals court holds that the wife of a Medicaid recipient may pursue a spousal support claim instead of an administrative remedy under Medicaid law, but that the probate court must take Medicaid law into account when deciding whether she is entitled to support. In re Michael Declerck (Mich. Ct. App., No. 343483, June 18, 2019).

Nursing home resident Michael Declerck received Medicaid benefits. His wife, Rosemary Declerck, sought a protective order under state law, claiming she lacked sufficient means to meet her needs and was entitled to support from Mr. Declerck. The state opposed the order, arguing that Mrs. Declerck had not exhausted her administrative remedies available under Medicaid law.

The probate court granted the protective order and ordered Mr. Declerck to pay all his Social Security and pension income to Mrs. Declerck. The state appealed. According to the state, the decision in In re Vansach, Jr., In re Bockes (Mich. Ct. App., Nos. 334732 & 336267, May 22, 2018) prevents the court from issuing a spousal support order without considering Mr. Declerck's needs and payment obligations under Medicaid.

The Michigan Court of Appeals vacates the court's order and remands, holding that the court needs to take Medicaid law into account, but Mrs. Declerck need not also exhaust her administrative remedies under Medicaid law. The court rules that the probate court must consider whether Mrs. Declerck is entitled to support despite the community-spouse monthly income allowance (CSMIA) provided under Medicaid law. The court also rules that "different methods for obtaining support from an institutionalized spouse are permitted," so Mrs. Declerck may pursue her claim for a protective order instead of administratively appealing the CSMIA.

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