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In the Matter of the v. Ada County

December 8, 2010


Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. D. Duff McKee, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Greg Bower,

Boise, September 2010 2010 Opinion No. 131

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

District court decision interpreting I.C. § 66-327, reversed.

Moffatt, Thomas, Barrett, Rock & Fields, Chtd. Boise, for appellant. Mark C. Peterson argued.

BURDICK, Justice

This case involves the interpretation of I.C. § 66-327, which governs the responsibility for costs of commitment and care of patients in cases involving involuntary hospitalization of the mentally ill. It is undisputed that patient John Doe incurred $7,023.61 in costs while being treated at BHC Intermountain Hospital, Inc. ("Intermountain"). Doe is an indigent resident of Ada County. The magistrate court determined that Respondent Ada County was responsible for the costs incurred during the involuntary treatment of Doe and that Ada County's responsibility was limited to the Medicaid reimbursement rate for the treatment. On appeal, the district court agreed that the reference to chapter 35, title 31, Idaho Code, in I.C. § 66-327(a) governs the rate at which a responsible county must pay and, therefore, Ada County must reimburse Intermountain at the Medicaid rate. We reverse.


While involuntarily hospitalized at Intermountain in February 2008, John Doe incurred $7,023.61 in costs measured at the standard and usual rate for the services provided. On May 14 of that year, the magistrate court notified Intermountain and Ada County of its intent to fix responsibility for the costs incurred by Doe on Ada County for the full amount of $7,023.61. Ada County objected, arguing that it is obligated to pay those costs at the reduced Medicaid reimbursement rate pursuant to I.C. § 66-327(a) and chapter 35, title 31, Idaho Code. On April 2, 2009, the magistrate court ordered Ada County to pay the reduced Medicaid rate.

Intermountain appealed, arguing that I.C. § 66-327(a) requires counties to pay the usual and customary rate for treatment, $7,023.61 in this case. The parties stipulated to stay the appeal until a decision was rendered in BHC Intermountain Hospital, Inc. v. Ada County, 148 Idaho 294, 221 P.3d 520 (2009). On January 22, 2010, after the stay was lifted, the district court upheld the magistrate court's determination that the Medicaid reimbursement rate should apply. Intermountain timely appealed to this Court.


At issue in this case is the rate at which the costs of commitment and care of involuntarily hospitalized mentally ill patients are to be reimbursed by a patient's county of residence when the county is found responsible for those costs under I.C. § 66-327(a). Intermountain argues that the reference to chapter 35, title 31 of the Idaho Code found in I.C. § 66-327(a) controls for purposes of determining which party is responsible for costs under I.C. § 66-327(a) but does not control for purposes of determining the rate at which those costs are to be reimbursed. We agree. Under I.C. § 66-327(a), a county must fully reimburse the service provider for costs that fall within I.C. § 66-327(a) and cannot pay only the Medicaid reimbursement rate as set forth in chapter 35, title 31.

A. Standard of review.

This Court freely reviews the construction of a statute. Gibson v. Ada Cnty., 142 Idaho 746, 751, 133 P.3d 1211, 1216 (2006). The interpretation of a statute is a question of law over which this Court exercises free review. State v. Hensley, 145 Idaho 852, 855, 187 P.3d 1227, 1230 (2008). The statute is viewed as a whole, and the analysis begins with the language of the statute, which is given its plain, usual and ordinary meaning. Id. In determining the ordinary meaning of the statute, "effect must be given to all the words of the statute if possible, so that none will be void, superfluous, or redundant." State v. Mercer, 143 Idaho 108, 109, 138 P.3d 308, 309 (2006) (quoting In re Winton Lumber Co., 57 Idaho 131, 136, 63 P.2d 664, 666 (1936)). However, "[i]f the language of the statute is capable of more than one reasonable construction it is ambiguous," and a statute that is ambiguous must be construed with legislative intent in mind, which is ...

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