A joint news release from the boards of Powell Valley Hospital in Powell and West Park Hospital in Cody sent on Tuesday said, “Wyoming statutes provide that in certain situations, the county must pay hospitals for certain expenses related to the …
Money is owed for involuntary commitments, hospital boards say
After mulling an ongoing situation for years, district boards for Park County’s two hospitals have requested a meeting with the Park County Commission to discuss payment of bills incurred by patients who were committed involuntarily.
Patients admitted involuntarily — called Title 25 commitments for the state statute they fall under — are those who are believed to be a danger to themselves or others as a result of mental illness.
A joint news release from the boards of Powell Valley Hospital in Powell and West Park Hospital in Cody sent on Tuesday said, “Wyoming statutes provide that in certain situations, the county must pay hospitals for certain expenses related to the involuntary commitment of patients.”
Both hospitals are in the process of calculating the amounts they believe the county owes them.
Paul Cardwell, chief executive officer for Powell Valley Healthcare, said he doesn’t have an exact figure yet, but “I believe it’s in excess of $1 million. That’s a pretty substantial amount of money, and it goes back seven years.”
Cardwell said the district was considering the matter long before he came onboard in March.
“But,” he added, “when you’re doing a complete review of a hospital ... and you see accounts receivable and money owed in excess of $1 million, that certainly got my attention.”
West Park Hospital in Cody has a similar amount on the table, he said.
When a patient can’t or doesn’t pay for their involuntary hospitalization, the cost for the first 72 hours of care falls to the county. After that, it becomes the state’s cost to bear, current Wyoming law says.
Park County Commissioner Tim French said the commission wants to see a detailed listing of the expenses it’s being charged for those first 72 hours.
“We want that proven to us, to list those charges to everybody involved, and that’s where we come into dispute with the hospitals,” he said.
Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric said the disagreements over payments on Title 25 commitments have been around since he became county attorney eight and a half years ago.
“It’s been an issue for a long time,” he said.
In the past, he said, part of the dispute has been exactly what the county is required to pay; state statute says the county must pay “costs” of the patients’ care.
“What are costs? Is it the bill we get (from the hospitals) or is it costs?” said Skoric.
Commission Chairman Bucky Hall said he believes the issue of paying for Title 25 patients’ care should be handled by the state government.
“We shouldn’t have to be dealing with this,” Hall said.
Cardwell said Tuesday’s request for a meeting is the boards’ attempt to negotiate cooperatively with the commission and come to an agreement on how much is owed to the hospitals.
“We wanted to do this in a congenial way — meet with them and say, ‘Here are the bills; here is what’s owed,’ and have them look through them,” he said. “Its a matter of getting the bills together so the county can release those funds to the hospital ... a matter of making sure on a county level that each dollar owed is appropriate.
“We hope they will say, ‘OK, we agree; we already have the fund to pay those,’ so we can reach an appropriate solution.
“We want to handle it in a real civil way, and appropriate way,” he said.
But, if that doesn’t work, “I think we’ll let the legal counsel handle the next step,” he said.
Hall said the county hopes to come to an agreement in roughly the next month.
“We’re going to try and resolve it,” he said.