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LAWRENCE WEYCHERT v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/12/88)

decided: December 12, 1988.

LAWRENCE WEYCHERT, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Orders of the Department of Public Welfare, Appeal of: Lawrence Weychert, No. # 51F0001 dated September 10, 1984 and October 23, 1986.

COUNSEL

Patricia D. Hilsinger, for petitioner.

Howard Ulan, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Doyle and Smith, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri.

Author: Barbieri

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 7]

Lawrence Weychert (Petitioner) petitions for review of the order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), Office of Hearings and Appeals which rejected Petitioner's request for financial and clinical abatement of his assessed liability for care at Philadelphia State Hospital during two involuntary hospitalizations. We affirm.

On December 22, 1982, Petitioner was involuntarily committed to Philadelphia State Hospital where he remained until he was discharged on March 1, 1984. The total cost of care for this stay, computed at a per diem rate of $160 per day, came to $64,160.00. Section 501 of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966 (Act), Act of October 20, 1966, as amended, 50 P.S. § 4501, states that Petitioner is fully liable to reimburse DPW for the public funds expended on Petitioner's care during his hospital stay. However, Section 504(a) of the Act, 50 P.S. § 4504(a), permits the Secretary

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 8]

    of DPW to abate, modify, compromise or discharge a mental patient's liability for repayment of funds expended if the Secretary is satisfied that imposition of full liability would result in a substantial hardship upon the mentally disabled person or create such a financial burden as to nullify the results of care and treatment afforded. Section 504(d) of the Act, 50 P.S. § 4504(d), directs the Secretary to promulgate by regulation the criteria for determination of liability.

The only source of funds which Petitioner has available to repay the cost of his care is social security disability (SSD) benefits in the amount of $472.00 per month. Pursuant to Section 504(d) of the Act, DPW enacted 55 Pa. Code § 4310.8 which deals with assessment of SSD benefits to meet the cost of patient care. Under this regulation, the first $60 of SSD benefits is reserved for the patient's personal use, the rest is available to meet the cost of care incurred. Since in Petitioner's case the cost of care was at least $4300.00 per month, DPW assessed all of Petitioner's SSD income to meet the cost of care, except $60 per month. Petitioner's total liability for care was assessed at $6,024.49, or approximately 10% of the actual bill.

DPW regulations permit Petitioner to file for further abatement of liability based on extraordinary financial hardship and medical necessity. Petitioner filed a petition for financial abatement under 55 Pa. Code § 4310.17(a) contending that he had $6,990.22 in other debts from prior hospitalizations and loans, a $3405.00 dentist bill, and that he needed additional money for clothing. A hearing on this petition was held on August 23, 1984. The hearing examiner concluded that 55 Pa. Code § 4310.18 and § 4310.19 require that only debt payments made on outstanding bills incurred before treatment began may be considered for abatement purposes. Petitioner presented no evidence of payment of

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 9]

    any bill. The hearing examiner also found that Philadelphia State Hospital provided dental services but that Petitioner had refused such services in favor of a private dentist. Free clothing was also available at the hospital. Petitioner's ...


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