September 7, 2018

Reversing a lower court order, a Washington appeals court rules that the court cannot force the state to pay a Medicaid beneficiary’s guardianship fees or to divert the beneficiary’s income from paying for room and board to pay the guardianship fees. Inslee, Maxwell & Assoc. v. State of Washington (Wash. Ct. App., No. 77034-9-I, July 30, 2018).

Thomas Henson received Medicaid under a Washington state waiver program in which he was required to pay his room and board from his income. Mr. Henson’s court-appointed professional guardian was intended to receive $225 a month in guardianship fees from Mr. Henson’s income.

In the guardian’s 2016 petition for fees, it reported that the state had not paid the full amount owed and requested the additional fees. The state claimed that the guardian’s fee request would violate Medicaid law by requiring the state to divert money from Mr. Henson’s room and board. State Medicaid law provides that guardians will not be compensated with state funds. The trial court approved the fee request and ordered that the funds be paid either by Mr. Henson or by the state if Mr. Henson did not have the funds. The state appealed.

The Washington Court of Appeals reverses, holding that the state is not required to use state funds to pay Mr. Henson’s guardianship fees or to divert Mr. Henson’s income to pay the fees. According to the court, state law clearly prevents the state from paying guardianship fees. In addition, the court rules it cannot force the state “to pay guardian fees and costs from income otherwise required for room and board.”

For the full text of this decision, go to: https://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/770349.PDF