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AGLO 1975 No. 49 - May 12, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

PENSIONS ‑- RETIREMENT ‑- LEOFF ‑- PROVISION OF EYEGLASSES TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AND FIRE FIGHTERS

Eyeglasses are included within the scope of "medical services" to be provided for under RCW 41.26.150 in view of the definition of that term in RCW 41.26.030(22).

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                                                                   May 12, 1975

Honorable Don L. Talley
State Senator, 18th District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 49

Dear Senator Talley:

            This is in response to your recent request for an opinion of this office relating to the proper interpretation of a certain provision of the laws governing the state law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system.  Specifically, you wish to know whether eyeglasses are included within the scope of "medical services" as that term is defined in RCW 41.26.030(22).

            We answer this question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Among other benefits to which they are entitled, members and retired former members of the law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system (LEFF) are required to be provided by their employers with certain medical services in accordance with the following provisions of RCW 41.26.150(1):

            "(1) Whenever any active member, or any member hereafter retired, on account of service, sickness or disability, not caused or brought on by dissipation or abuse, of which the disability board shall be judge, is confined in any hospital or in his home, and whether or not so confined, requiresmedical services, the employer shall pay for such active or retired member the necessary medical services not payable from some other source. . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The term "medical services" is defined in RCW 41.26.030(22) as follows:1/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] "'Medical services' shall include the following as minimum services to be provided.  Reasonable charges for these services shall be paid in accordance with RCW 41.26.150.

            "(a) Hospital expenses:  These are the charges made by a hospital, in its own behalf, for

            "(i) Board and room not to exceed semiprivate room rate unless private room is required by the attending physician due to the condition of the patient.

            "(ii) Necessary hospital services, other than board and room, furnished by the hospital.

            "(b) Other medical expenses:  The following charges are considered 'other medical expenses', provided that they have not been considered as 'hospital expenses'.

            "(i) Thefees of the following:

            "(A) A physician or surgeon licensed under the provisions of chapter 18.71 RCW;

            "(B) An osteopath licensed under the provisions of chapter 18.57 RCW;

            "(C) A chiropractor licensed under the provisions of chapter 18.25 RCW.

            "(ii) The charges of a registered graduate nurse other than a nurse who ordinarily resides in the member's home, or is a member of the family of either the member or the member's spouse.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] "(iii) The charges for the following medical services and supplies:

            "(A) Drugs and medicines upon a physician's prescription;

            "(B) Diagnostic x-ray and laboratory examinations;

            "(C) X-ray, radium, and radioactive isotopes therapy;

            "(D) Anesthesia and oxygen;

            "(E) Rental of iron lung and other durable medical and surgical equipment;

            "(F) Artificial limbs and eyes and casts, splints, and trusses;

            "(G) Professional ambulance service when used to transport the member to or from a hospital when he is injured by an accident or stricken by a disease;

            "(H) Dental charges incurred by a member who sustains an accidental injury to his teeth and who commences treatment by a legally licensed dentist within ninety days after the accident;

            "(I) Nursing home confinement or hospital extended care facility;

            "(J) Physical therapy by a registered physical therapist;

            "(K) Blood transfusions, including the cost of blood and blood plasma not replaced by voluntary donors;

            "(L)An optometrist licensed under the provisions of chapter 18.53 RCW."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            From the portions of this statute which we have underscored it will initially be seen that the costs of an optometrist are treated differently, within the context of the statute, than are the fees of a physician, surgeon, osteopath or chiropractor.  Although all are mentioned under RCW 41.26.020(22)(b) the physician, surgeon, osteopath and chiropractor are listed under a heading which limits the application of the defined  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] terms to the fees of those individuals.  Optometrists, on the other hand, are listed under a different subheading which includes both "medical services" and "supplies."  Obviously, an optometrist himself cannot be considered "supplies" although his services could, of course, in a general sense be considered "medical."

            Furthermore, it is notable that so much of this statute as deals with optometrists was not in the original version of RCW 41.26.030(22), as enacted in 1971, by § 6, chapter 257, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess.  Instead, it was added by a later amendment contained in § 1, chapter 120, Laws of 1974, Ex. Sess.

            Your question addresses itself to the point of whether the legislature by this later differing treatment of the charges of optometrists meant to include within its definition of "medical services" the supplies normally provided by such an individual; i.e., eyeglasses.  We believe that it did.

            In order to determine legislative intent, one must turn to the rules of construction which have been laid down by the courts over the years.  Greenwood v. State Bd. for Com. Col., 82 Wn.2d 667, 513 P.2d 57 (1973);Eastlake Com. Count. v. Roanoke Assoc., 82 Wn.2d 475, 513 P.2d 36 (1973).  One such rule is that the legislature, in passing an amendatory law, will be presumed to be familiar with its own prior enactments. Ropo, Inc. v. Seattle, 67 Wn.2d 574, 409 P.2d 148 (1965).  It is also presumed that the legislature does not deliberately engage in unnecessary or meaningless acts.  Knowles v. Holly, 82 Wn.2d 694, 513 P.2d 18 (1973).

            Applying these rules, we here conclude that the legislature was aware of its earlier limitation of the definition of the term "medical services" to thefees of physicians, surgeons, osteopaths and chiropractors.  With this knowledge in mind, it placed the above quoted amendatory provision relating to optometrists under a different heading which did not contain that limitation.  It logically follows that the legislature in so doing intended that different considerations would apply in relation to an optometrist than apply with regard to the other professional medical services referred to in RCW 41.26.030(22), supra.

            We therefore answer your question in the affirmative.  The term "medical services" as defined by RCW 41.26.030(22) does include eyeglasses.2/

            [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]     We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

WAYNE L. WILLIAMS
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/We have concluded earlier, in a letter opinion to the Honorable Marcus S. Gaspard, State Representative, dated April 16, 1973, that:

            "The 'medical services' listed in the definition contained in RCW 41.26.030(22) constitute minimum services only‑-thereby leaving it to each disability board to determine whether to order payments, under RCW 41.26.150, for additional medical services not included within the list contained in this subsection."

2/This conclusion is further buttressed by the rule that in a case involving a pension system, statutory ambiguities are to be resolved in favor of the members of that system.   Bowen v. Statewide Retirement Sys., 72 Wn.2d 397, 433 P.2d 150 (1967).

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