CALIFORNIA: L.A. COUNTY WILL FILE TOBACCO LAWSUIT
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed yesterdayThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
to file a lawsuit against the tobacco industry "seeking huge
damages" to recoup the Medicaid costs of treating smoking-related
illnesses. LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that L.A. County, the
nation's "most populous county" with more than 9.2 million
residents, will become the third largest plaintiff involved in
the current "wave" of tobacco litigation, behind Texas and
ALL ABOARD: The county's move comes less than one week
after San Francisco officially filed a similar suit against the
tobacco industry. Under an agreement reached by the supervisors,
L.A. County will either join the San Francisco suit or file a
separate case. L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who
"pressed" for the suit, said he has consulted with a private law
firm about handling the county's case on a contingency basis.
BIG BUCKS: Yaroslavsky said that the county has the
"opportunity to recover hundreds of millions of dollars" for its
Medicaid system. According to a study conducted by the
University of California-San Francisco in 1994, the county spends
$1.2 billion annually on illnesses related to smoking, $372
million of which is "borne by the financially troubled public
health system." County Health Services Director Mark Finucane
noted that L.A. is "bearing a heavy financial burden" because its
"huge" immigrant population is being "targeted" by the tobacco
industry's marketing tactics.
TOBACCO: Philip Morris said the county's suit would be
without "legal merit and would ultimately cost the taxpayers ...
millions of dollars." R.J. Reynolds spokesperson Peggy Carter
said that the county doesn't "have a basis" for the suit because
they can't show "economic loss."
A GROWING MOVEMENT: Santa Clara County's Board of
Supervisors voted yesterday to join San Francisco's suit. San
Francisco city attorney Louise Renne said, "The more local
governments that are involved in this the better"
NEW MEDICARE CONTRACTOR: Health Care Financing
Administration Administrator Bruce Vladeck announced Monday that
National Heritage Insurance Company (NHIC), a subsidiary of
Electronic Data Systems, has been selected to be the new Medicare
Part B carrier in California. The move follows HCFA's
announcement in April that Blue Shield of California would not be
renewing its contract to process the claims (see AHL 4/19). NHIC
will assume Blue Shield's duties in Northern California and
Riverside and San Bernardino counties in Southern California. In
FY '95, Blue Shield processed 23.5 million claims and paid about
$1.6 billion in benefits. NHIC will retain most of Blue Shield's
Medicare employees and will begin processing claims under the
contract by early next year (HCFA release, 6/10).