Avera can’t collect, because it could have billed Yankton County but didn’t, S.D. justices rule

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Yankton County doesn’t have to pay bills it didn’t receive from Sacred Heart Health Services within the 15-day period set by state law for care of indigent patients, according to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

In a decision publicly released Thursday, Chief Justice David Gilbertson found Avera Sacred Heart Hospital could have requested reimbursements for care to 23 people under South Dakota’s county poor-relief laws. But the hospital didn’t send notices to Yankton County within 15 days.

“A county’s burden of payment does not exist unless a hospital follows this statutory procedure. Here, the hospital failed to follow this procedure and cannot obtain reimbursement for the twenty-three patients’ medical costs,” the chief justice wrote.

In upholding the decision of Circuit Judge David Knoff, the high court also said guidelines from the state Department of Social Services weren’t helpful.

Wrote Gilbertson: “First, DSS did not draft the guidelines until after treatment was rendered to the twenty-three individuals at issue. Second, the guidelines do not address the party responsible for the patient’s medical care. Finally, even if they did suggest the county was responsible, such a
directive could only be accomplished through a legislative act or duly authorized and implemented administrative rule.”

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