McGovern v. AHCCCS – 11/8/2016

December 6, 2016

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that for purposes of eligibility for AHCCCS, assets are countable and available if the applicant has a legal right to them regardless of practical difficulties in accessing them.

AHCCCS denied an application for benefits because the applicant’s countable and available income was too high.  The applicant lacked the mental capacity to control his own assets and so his sister had a power of attorney to access the assets on his behalf.  The applicant’s assets included bank accounts which he jointly owned with his daughter and a jointly owned vehicle.  Despite the power of attorney, the bank’s policies prevented access to the accounts without the daughter’s permission, which she refused to give.  A conservatorship would have allowed him to access his share of the accounts. 

AHCCCS held a hearing and determined that the assets were available and countable.  Despite the daughter’s refusal to cooperate, the applicant’s share of the vehicle and the accounts were still legally available to the applicant.  Without explanation, the superior court reversed the AHCCCS determination and ordered payment.  AHCCCS appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed.

AHCCCS is bound by federal eligibility factors for its long term care program.  Under federal law, a person’s income or resources are available and countable if the person has a legal right to them.  Although the federal rules may not require applicants to engage in litigation to obtain potential or disputed assets, the Court held that the need to obtain a conservatorship does not make assets legally unavailable or uncountable.  Here, the applicant had a legal right to the funds in his accounts and to his share of the vehicle despite his daughter’s refusal to cooperate or consent and therefore AHCCCS could consider those assets as countable and available.

Judge Thompson authored the opinion; Presiding Judge Johnsen and Chief Judge Brown concurred.