Governor Vetoes Bill Dealing With Medi-Cal Rates, Damages Awards
On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed a bill (SB 93) by Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) that would have prohibited courts and settlement negotiators from using Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to help determine damage awards for injured Medi-Cal beneficiaries, the California Recorder reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
The measure was supported by trial lawyers and physicians who said the bill is needed to let them recover the actual costs of treating Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
Insurers opposed the bill, arguing that it would have increased legal costs and policy premiums.
The governor said, "I have vetoed nearly identical legislation twice before out of concerns that the proposed language would encourage litigation and fail to keep in check medical charges." He added, "The proponents of this year's bill have done nothing to address these concerns."
Bruce Brusavich, former president of the Consumer Attorneys of California, along with a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles), said Democrats inserted similar provisions into a budget trailer bill this summer. The Department of Health Care Services supported the language, estimating it would lead to $22 million in recovered Medi-Cal payments for the state.
However, in order to meet Republican budgetary demands, the governor told Democrats that he would sign a stand-alone bill this fall if the Medi-Cal language was removed from the budget. As a result, Democrats introduced SB 93 in the last days of the legislative session.
Schwarzenegger's office has not confirmed Brusavich's description of events.
Brusavich said SB 93 supporters might try to reintroduce the measure during the current special legislative session on health care reform (Miller, California Record, 10/8).