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Meeker County reaches agreement on $47K health-related debt

LITCHFIELD -- An agreement has been reached between Meeker County and Hutchinson Area Health Care for the payment of services for mentally ill individuals who require 72-hour acute care.

The county had refused to pay the bill for the last four to five years, resulting in a $47,000 debt.

The hospital filed a lawsuit a couple weeks ago.

Meeker County Administrator Paul Virnig said the county did not pay the bill because there was no formal contract between the two entities and because the county believed the charges were too high.

Virnig said the county "wasn't disputing that it owed money for services" but questioned the "excessive" rates that were charged. He said the county did not want to make payments without a contract that could include discounts.

Virnig also said the hospital repeatedly denied the county's claims that state law required a contract to be in place.

The Meeker County Board of Commissioners was informed Tuesday an agreement has been finalized and past services will be billed at rates included in the contract.

Virnig said the final bill will be "significantly reduced."

In other action, the commissioners agreed to take the take the highest of two price quotes to purchase a truck body and snow plow. They agreed to purchase the equipment from Tow Master Truck Equipment of Litchfield for $93,335.

TBEI Crysteel Manufacturing from Lake Crystal provided a quote of $88,512.

Virnig said the commissioners had concerns about the inexperience of the Lake Crystal company and its subcontractor from Kansas.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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