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Supervisors Discuss Outstanding Bill

By Staff | Aug 25, 2011

Palo Alto County Supervisors are in agreement that they don’t want to pay a medical bill incurred by an individual in another county, but are still discussing what to do about the dilemma. The discussion continued with Palo Alto County Attorney Lyssa Henderson and Mental Health Coordinator Maureen Sandberg in the Supervisors’ Board Meeting on Aug. 16.

The discussion revolves around a bill from a hospital in another county, was continued from earlier in the month, when the supervisors directed Henderson to talk with the hospital’s attorney to try and reach a resolution in the case, which involved a court-ordered hospitalization for medical, rather than mental health purposes. As a result, Sandberg, who is also the county’s General Relief director, was not notified of the hospitalization until a sizeable bill had been incurred, at which point Sandberg became aware of the situation was able to place the individual in a different facility in one day’s time, something the other hospital had been “unable” to do, according to Sandberg.

“You know my feelings about this,” Sandberg said. “This person was in the hospital for other than mental health reasons. That $50,000 hospital bill is equal to the cost of one year for a client in an Intermediate Care Facility.”

“I just don’t feel like the county owes that bill,” Board Chair Keith Wirtz said.

“Well, right now, we’re not going to pay it,” agreed Supervisor Ron Graettinger.

” The last time we talked, we had come up with an offer of $15,000 as a settlement,” Lyssa Henderson told the board. “The hospital’s attorney made a counter-offer of $20,000 the last time we talked.”

“I still don’t think we owe it,” Wirtz repeated.

“So if we don’t pay it and they sue us, can we win?” Supervisor Ed Noonan asked.

“We have good arguments,” Henderson answered. “The hospital was court-ordered to take this person, but it was not a mental-health commitment, so Maureen wasn’t notified because it wasn’t mental health related. The bills came to the Clerk of Court and she passed them on to the County Attorney’s Office.”

According to Sandberg, the individual was hospitalized from July 22 to Oct. 25 of last year, with the bill totaling around $60,000, or figuring out to about $750 a day.

“Once Maureen found out about this and contacted them, they told her they couldn’t find a place for this person to go, and Maureen found a place in two hours,” Wirtz noted. “I just don’t think they tried very hard.”

After a few comments, Noonan spoke up. “I think our offer is fair.”

“That’s fine, but I don’t want it to come out of my mental health budget,” Sandberg said.

“I would like to research some more case law to support our position in this,” Henderson said. “If you could wait a week, I’d like to see what I can find.”

“Just so you know, since I got involved in this, after Oct. 12, I have not seen anything from that hospital,” Sandberg said, bringing the discussion to a close. “They send the bill to the Clerk of Court. I don’t think they want to talk to me.”