Judge Denies Court Order Request in San Diego County Medical Services Case
San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn on Aug. 26 denied a request for a court order that would have barred San Diego County Medical Services from denying medical coverage to residents because of their income level, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Styn said attorneys representing plaintiffs in the case had not established that residents who were denied medical assistance by County Medical Services faced "imminent irreparable harm" because of the lack of coverage. In addition, plaintiffs' attorneys did not identify specific patients whose condition worsened after they were denied County Medical Services coverage.
County Medical Services provides coverage to county residents whose incomes do not exceed certain levels, currently $802 monthly for an individual or $1,084 monthly for two people, excluding some deductions. Only Orange and San Diego counties do not offer cost-sharing options for uninsured residents whose incomes exceed the thresholds (Littlefield, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/27).
In May, Styn ordered County Medical Services to consider a San Ysidro man's ability to pay in evaluating his application for emergency coverage. In that decision, Styn wrote that the state Supreme Court has made it clear that "a county may not adopt a standard that uses an arbitrary income limit without considering the individual's ability to pay the costs of necessary care" (California Healthline, 5/9).
At the Friday hearing, attorney Katie Murphy, who represents the plaintiffs, told Styn, "The county is continuing to deny applicants ... to the tune of five a day." Murphy said the county has rejected applications for coverage for more than 1,100 people because of income limits during the last fiscal year.
Styn said the county's policy of determining eligibility based on income appears to violate state law but added that he could not grant the court order request without information on specific applicants who might be harmed (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/27).