August 27, 2006
Worst Statute in the World for August 27, 2006
Again with a nod to Keith Olbermann for the idea, this week's worst statute in the world is not one statute, but a conglomeration: statutes dealing with medical assistance payments, state and federal. Why pick these out of the many? Well, because I'm the editor, is the short answer.
But, if justify myself I must, it struck me that these statutes are supposed to be directed to (or at least provide assistance to or define how to provide assistance to) our neediest members of society. You'd think they'd be, as a result, fairly user friendly.
Cutting against that, of course, is the fact that there are lawyers involved. Lawyers come up with ways to get benefits to people that Congress really didn't want to benefit, and so Congress (and the legislatures) are constantly modifying and amending the set up in order to keep at least up with the lawyers.
The result was best described in a couple recent opinions, which I just love:
In an effort to prevent circumvention of Medicaid requirements, the Medicaid statutes are constantly evolving and have been revised repeatedly, causing consternation to providers, applicants, lawyers and judges. The following excerpt captures this sentiment:
"There can be no doubt but that the statutes and provisions in question, involving the financing of Medicare and Medicaid, are among the most completely impenetrable texts within human experience. Indeed, one approaches them at the level of specificity herein demanded with dread, for not only are they dense reading of the most tortuous kind, but Congress also revisits the area frequently, generously cutting and pruning in the process and making any solid grasp of the matters addressed merely a passing phase." Rehabilitation Ass'n of Virginia v. Kozlowski, 42 F.3d 1444 (4th Cir.1994).
Johnson v. Guhl, 91 F.Supp.2d 754, 758 (D.N.J.2000). Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson echoed this theme in her concurrence in Tannler, 211 Wis.2d at 191, 564 N.W.2d 735 (footnote omitted):
Anyone who works with medical assistance statutes begins by appreciating that the federal and state statutes are extremely complex and may fairly be described as incomprehensible. The statutes are characterized by ambivalence and ambiguity, by a confusing mix of means-tested programs and entitlements, and by uneasy compromises among different and often conflicting policies.
Estate of Gonwa ex rel Gonwa v. Wisconsin Dept. of Health & Family Serv., 668 N.W.2d 122 (Wis. App. 2003).
The state and federal medical assistance statutes: officially incomprehensible and so today's Worst Statute in the World!
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