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AGO 1953 No. 165 - November 04, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Commissioners of public hospital districts may establish rates to be charged for hospital rooms and medical care, but these rates are not controlling upon the state department of health since services rendered for this department are subject to contract between the department and the vendor.

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                                                                November 4, 1953

Honorable Maloy Sensney
Prosecuting Attorney
Benton County
Prosser, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 165

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion upon the following questions:

            "(1) Can the public hospital districts establish their own rates for hospital rooms and care which are controlling on the state department of health and welfare, or does the state department of health have the right to fix the amount that will be paid?

            "(2) Do the commissioners of the public hospital districts have the right and authority to establish and increase rates for hospital care, which increase is controlling on the state department of health?"

            Our answers to both questions may be summarized as follows:

            The commissioners of public hospital districts are empowered to establish or increase the rates to be charged generally for hospital rooms and medical care,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] but those rates are not controlling on the state department of health, inasmuch as the amount to be paid by that department for services rendered to or for it is subject to contract between the department and the vendor.


            A public hospital district is authorized to own and operate hospitals and to furnish hospital service.  RCW 70.44.010.

            RCW 70.44.060, provides in part:

            "A public hospital district shall have power:

            "* * *

            "(7) To enter into any contract with the United States government or any state, municipality or other hospital district, or any department of those governing bodies, for carrying out any of the powers authorized hereby."

            An analysis of the statutes pertaining to public hospital districts indicates that such a district is an independent agency with independent administrative powers.  Nowhere is there any indication that the action of or the charges fixed by a public hospital district are binding upon any other independent state department, except, by the usual doctrine of contract.

            Section 1, chapter 5, Laws of 1953, Ex. Sess., provides:

            "* * * administrative responsibility for providing for needed medical, dental and allied services to recipients of public assistance and medical indigents shall be the responsibility of the state department of health.  * * *

            "Sec. 3. In carrying out the administrative responsibility of the act, the department of health may contract with an individual or a group, * * *

            "Sec. 8. * * * The department shall purchase hospital care by contract or at not more than the minimum ward rate of each hospital after approval of the rate by the department of health.  * * *

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "Sec. 12. Each vendor or group who has a contract and is rendering service to eligible persons as defined in this act shall submit such charges as agreed upon between the department and the individual or group on a monthly basis * * *"

            In our opinion, the foregoing statutory provisions clearly indicate that public hospital districts have the power to establish or increase their general rates, but those rates are not controlling on the state department of health until and unless that department has approved those rates and contracted for services at those rates.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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