Connecticut State Medical Society v. Connecticut Board Of Examiners In Podiatry

546 A.2d 830 (1988)


A Medicare intermediary created a firestorm by holding that podiatrists are limited to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of foot ailments; therefore, services involving the ankle are not covered by Medicare. D sought an opinion from the attorney general. The attorney general stated that the 'question posed in the request for advice is one which calls for a factual determination. In order to respond, analysis must first be conducted of the human anatomy to ascertain whether the ankle is, in fact, part of the foot, or vice-versa. Once accomplished, the analysis would have to continue with the determination of whether a sprain or strain of the ankle is, in fact, an 'ailment of the foot.' The attorney general passed off the decision to D. The attorney general's opinion stated that D could (1) make a declaratory ruling pursuant to General Statutes § 4-176; (2) make regulations pursuant to General Statutes § 19a-14 (a) (4); or (3) adjudication of a disciplinary complaint concerning a podiatrist claimed to be acting beyond the scope of his licensure, pursuant to General Statutes § 20-59. D decided to hold a hearing and gave notice. After the hearing D issued a declaratory ruling that the ankle is part of the foot and that podiatrists could, therefore, treat ankle ailments. P appealed and eventually, a trial court found that Ps were aggrieved and sustained their administrative appeal. It noted that an agency must act strictly within its statutory authority and cannot modify, abridge or otherwise change the statutory provisions under which it acquires authority. The court reasoned that words and phrases are to be construed according to the commonly approved usage of the language. It further concluded that where language is clear and unambiguous, there is no room for construction and that a statute does not become ambiguous merely because the parties argue for or would prefer different meanings. It held that the statute clearly and specifically limits the practice of podiatry to the diagnosis of foot ailments and surgery on the feet. It relied on common understanding and the definition of 'foot.' D appealed.