County Not Required To Pay Medical Costs, Judge Rules
A San Diego Superior Court judge on Friday is expected to finalize a tentative ruling that the court does not have the authority to order the county to pay medical bills for uninsured residents who earn more than income thresholds set by the county Board of Supervisors, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Judge Ronald Styn in November 2005 ordered the county to restructure its formula for determining thresholds while considering a resident's ability to pay for medical costs. The county Board of Supervisors in December 2005 approved new eligibility thresholds: $1,078 per month for an individual and $1,445 per month for a two-person household. Residents who work are allowed to earn an addition $90.
However, attorney Catherine Murphy of the Western Center on Law & Poverty argued that the revised income thresholds still are unrealistic because of the high cost of living in the area. Murphy said residents who cannot afford medical care but have incomes above the threshold should be allowed to pay the amount above the threshold, with the county paying the remaining medical bills.
In the tentative ruling, Styn ruled that the court "lacks the authority" to require the county to pay for medical bills of people who earn more than the threshold. Styn said such an order would require action by the Legislature or a higher court.
Styn also ruled that the county's new formula to set the thresholds is reasonably supported by cost-of-living statistics.
Murphy indicated that the ruling might be appealed (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/7).