The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY
The Court has before it Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, the parties' memoranda in opposition to these motions, supplementary memoranda and the entire record herein. Plaintiff, a national organization dedicated to helping the nation's elderly, seeks to have certain Medicaid regulations declared invalid. These regulations permit states to "deem" income from a non-institutionalized spouse, to be available to an institutionalized spouse, in determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits. Plaintiff challenges the regulations on three grounds: (1) that they violate the provisions of the Medicaid statute requiring "comparability" in the treatment of medically needy and categorically needy individuals; (2) that they create irrebuttable presumptions in violation of the Due Process clause and; (3) that they violate the Due Process clause by placing an impermissible burden on the right to marry. The Court finds that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and rules for defendants for the reasons set forth herein.
This suit is the successor to C.A. No. 78-0661. The original complaint in that case was filed on April 13, 1978. In it, plaintiff challenged the deeming regulations issued by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services' Health Care Financing Administration) on the ground that the regulations violated the "availability" requirement of the Medicaid statute. 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(17)(B). The plaintiff also asserted the two due process challenges presented in this case.
On cross motions, the Court granted summary judgment for plaintiff based on its statutory challenge. 461 F. Supp. 319 (1978). The Court thus found it unnecessary to address the constitutional arguments. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed this Court's judgment on the independent ground that the Secretary failed to consider all relevant factors in promulgating the deeming regulations. 203 U.S. App. D.C. 146, 629 F.2d 180 (1980). The Supreme Court, however, reversed the decision of the Circuit Court and remanded, noting that the constitutional issues were still open. 453 U.S. 34, 101 S. Ct. 2633, 69 L. Ed. 2d 460 (1981). The Circuit Court, in turn, remanded to this Court.
On remand, plaintiff informed the Court that it intended to continue to press its constitutional claims. Additionally, defendants agreed to allow plaintiff to amend its complaint to add its "comparability" challenge in light of changes in the Medicaid statute effected by passage of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The statute underwent further changes upon the passage of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act ("TEFRA"). In light of these changes, plaintiff dismissed C.A. No. 78-0661 and filed this case. The three questions presented, however, are the same: whether the current regulations violate the "comparability" requirement of the Medicaid statute; whether deeming violates the Due Process clause by creating an irrebuttable presumption; and, whether deeming impermissibly burdens the right to marry in violation of the Due Process clause.
PLAINTIFF'S STATUTORY CHALLENGE IS NOT RIPE FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW.
Plaintiff's first challenge to defendants' regulations is under the Medicaid statute. Plaintiff alleges that the Medicaid statute requires that medically and categorically needy individuals receive comparable benefits and challenges the deeming regulations for failure to provide such comparability. Defendants have conceded that the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act invalidated those regulations.
However, the regulations have not been officially rescinded.
Plaintiff seeks a Court Order requiring rescission of the deeming regulations and promulgation of new regulations in compliance with the Medicaid statute.
The problem with this argument, however, is that it is not yet ripe for judicial review. While the regulations that plaintiff challenges allow states to adopt rules which do not require comparability, at this time not a single state has adopted such a rule. Furthermore, defendants have stated that they would not approve such rules should a state seek to adopt them because defendants agree that rules which do not provide comparability would violate the Medicaid statute.
All that plaintiff can put before the Court at this juncture is the eventuality that some state could propose rules which provide for different deeming between medically and categorically needy individuals, and the possibility that defendants will approve those rules. The Court holds that this does not present a controversy that is ripe for judicial determination. See, e.g., Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 87 S. Ct. 1507, 18 L. Ed. 2d 681 (1967). There is no ripeness problem, however, with plaintiff's two constitutional claims.
THE DOCTRINE OF IRREBUTTABLE PRESUMPTIONS IS INAPPLICABLE TO THIS CASE.
Plaintiff's first constitutional challenge alleges that the deeming regulations create two irrebuttable presumptions that violate the due process clause. These are: (a) that the non-institutionalized spouse can live on the amount not deemed; and (2) that the amount deemed is actually contributed to the institutionalized spouse. However, the entire doctrine of irrebuttable presumptions is inapplicable to this case. It has been firmly established, that the line of cases holding irrebuttable presumptions unconstitutional is not to be applied to cases involving eligibility determinations under social welfare programs. See Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 45 L. Ed. 2d 522, 95 S. Ct. 2457 (1975). In declining to extend the doctrine of irrebuttable presumptions to cases such as this the Supreme Court stated:
We think that the Court's extension of the holdings in Stanley, Vlandis and LaFleur to the eligibility requirement in issue here would turn the doctrine of those cases into a virtual engine of destruction for countless legislative judgments which have heretofore been thought wholly consistent with the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
Because of the types of determinations which must be made in administering social welfare programs, the Supreme Court has indicated that the proper standard of review in such cases is minimum rationality. Id. See also Califano v. Jobst, 434 U.S. 47, 54, 54 L. Ed. 2d 228, 98 S. Ct. 95 (1977); Mathews v. DeCastro, 429 U.S. 181, 185, 97 S. Ct. 431, 50 L. Ed. 2d 389 (1976). In order to pass muster under the standard of minimum rationality, the challenged regulations must be rationally related to legitimate legislative objectives. The deeming regulations at issue here have a reasonable relationship to two goals: the efficient administration of a program to provide medical assistance to a large number of needy individuals and the prevention of non-needy persons from exhausting the ...