B-142463, APR. 29, 1960

B-142463: Apr 29, 1960

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IT IS EXPLAINED THAT PURSUANT TO THE ACT OF FEBRUARY 6. THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR ENTERED INTO A SERIES OF CONTRACTS WITH MORNINGSIDE HOSPITAL BY WHICH THE INSANE OF THE TERRITORY OF ALASKA WERE PLACED IN THAT INSTITUTION FOR CARE AND TREATMENT. IT WAS PROVIDED IN PERTINENT PART BY SECTION 9 OF THE ACT OF OCTOBER 14. BEFORE ANY FINDINGS AND ORDERS WERE ISSUED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ABOVE PROVISION OF LAW. IT IS STATED THAT YOUR DEPARTMENT OBTAINED INFORMATION FROM THE PATIENT AND HIS RESPONSIBLE RELATIVES CONCERNING THEIR ABILITY TO MAKE PAYMENT TOWARD THE COST OF CARE AND TREATMENT. BASED ON SUCH INFORMATION AN ORDER WAS THEN ISSUED WHICH STIPULATED THE AMOUNT TO BE PAID BY THE INDIVIDUAL.

B-142463, APR. 29, 1960

TO THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR:

BY LETTER OF MARCH 31, 1960, THE ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, ASKED WHETHER CERTAIN DEBTS OWED THE UNITED STATES BY PATIENTS AT MORNINGSIDE HOSPITAL, PORTLAND, OREGON, OR THEIR RESPONSIBLE RELATIVES, MAY BE WRITTEN OFF AND NO FURTHER COLLECTION ACTION TAKEN.

IT IS EXPLAINED THAT PURSUANT TO THE ACT OF FEBRUARY 6, 1909, 35 STAT. 601, AS AMENDED, THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR ENTERED INTO A SERIES OF CONTRACTS WITH MORNINGSIDE HOSPITAL BY WHICH THE INSANE OF THE TERRITORY OF ALASKA WERE PLACED IN THAT INSTITUTION FOR CARE AND TREATMENT, WITH THE COST OF THEIR CARE AND TREATMENT BEING PAID BY THE UNITED STATES. THEREAFTER, IT WAS PROVIDED IN PERTINENT PART BY SECTION 9 OF THE ACT OF OCTOBER 14, 1942, 56 STAT. 785, THAT---

"IT SHALL BE THE DUTY OF A PATIENT, OR HIS LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE, SPOUSE, PARENTS, ADULT CHILDREN, IN THAT SEQUENCE, TO PAY OR CONTRIBUTE TO THE PAYMENT OF THE CHARGES FOR THE CARE OR TREATMENT OF SUCH PATIENT IN SUCH MANNER AND PORTION AS THE SECRETARYMAY FIND TO BE WITHIN THEIR ABILITY TO PAY: PROVIDED, THAT SUCH CHARGES SHALL IN NO CASE EXCEED THE ACTUAL COST OF SUCH CARE AND TREATMENT. THE ORDER OF THE SECRETARY RELATING TO THE PAYMENT OF CHARGES BY PERSONS OTHER THAN THE PATIENT, OR HIS LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE, SHALL BE PROSPECTIVE IN EFFECT AND SHALL RELATE ONLY TO CHARGES TO BE INCURRED SUBSEQUENT TO THE ORDER * * *. THE SECRETARY MAY CAUSE TO BE MADE SUCH INVESTIGATIONS AS MAY BE NECESSARY TO DETERMINE SUCH ABILITY TO PAY, INCLUDING THE REQUIREMENT OR SWORN STATEMENTS OF INCOME BY SUCH PERSONS.'

BEFORE ANY FINDINGS AND ORDERS WERE ISSUED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ABOVE PROVISION OF LAW, IT IS STATED THAT YOUR DEPARTMENT OBTAINED INFORMATION FROM THE PATIENT AND HIS RESPONSIBLE RELATIVES CONCERNING THEIR ABILITY TO MAKE PAYMENT TOWARD THE COST OF CARE AND TREATMENT. BASED ON SUCH INFORMATION AN ORDER WAS THEN ISSUED WHICH STIPULATED THE AMOUNT TO BE PAID BY THE INDIVIDUAL.

PURSUANT TO THE ACT OF JULY 28, 1956, 70 STAT. 709, RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE CARE AND TREATMENT OF THESE PATIENTS WAS TRANSFERRED TO THE TERRITORY OF ALASKA ON FEBRUARY 23, 1957. HOWEVER, UNDER SECTION 301/D) (1) OF THAT ACT, 70 STAT. 713, PERSONS WHO WERE SUBJECTS OF OUTSTANDING ADMINISTRATIVE FINDINGS AND ORDERS REMAINED LIABLE TO THE UNITED STATES.

IT IS EXPLAINED THAT NO PAYMENTS ARE BEING RECEIVED ON SOME OF THESE CASES AND THAT, BASED ON ALL THE INFORMATION THAT HAS BEEN OBTAINED, IT HAS BEEN CONCLUDED THAT THESE CLAIMS ARE UNCOLLECTIBLE. FOR THESE REASONS, THE ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT SECRETARY BELIEVES THESE CLAIMS SHOULD BE WRITTEN OFF AND NO FURTHER COLLECTION ACTION TAKEN.

SINCE, UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 9 OF THE ACT OF OCTOBER 14, 1942, QUOTED ABOVE, THE AMOUNT TO BE PAID IS BASED ON A DETERMINATION OF ABILITY TO PAY, WE SEE NO REASON WHY SUCH AMOUNT MIGHT NOT PROPERLY BE CHANGED OR CANCELED WHEN IT IS DETERMINED THAT DEBTOR, DUE TO CHANGED FINANCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES, IS NOT ABLE TO PAY THE AMOUNT STIPULATED. HOWEVER, WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE STATUTE CONTEMPLATES THAT SUCH DEBTS SHOULD BE CANCELED SOLELY ON THE BASIS OF AN ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATION OF UNCOLLECTIBILITY.

ACCORDINGLY, UNLESS IT BE ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED UPON A REASONABLE BASIS SUPPORTED BY THE RECORD THAT THE DEBTORS ARE FINANCIALLY UNABLE TO PAY THE AMOUNTS INVOLVED, THE DEBTS SHOULD BE ..END :