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Judge Delays Alameda County Ruling

A California Superior Court judge in Alameda County yesterday delayed the approval or rejection of the state’s chosen financial conservator for Alameda Alliance for Health, a local initiative health plan in the East Bay.

Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte did not give an estimated date for a ruling on who will oversee finances at Alameda Alliance — health plan administrators or the state-appointed organization that has been running things since May.

Department of Managed Health Care officials, alarmed at non-payment of claims, took over the financially troubled Alameda Alliance and turned over the plan’s finances to a conservator — Berkeley Research Group, a national consulting firm with offices in Emeryville.

DMHC officials said their action came as the result of the largest claims violation in the history of the department.

“Now we’re waiting for the conservator report due early next month,” said Rodger Butler, information officer for DMHC. “When we issued the order, the conservator took possession of the finances. We’re operating as if that will continue.”

Yesterday’s hearing in Superior Court originally was to get approval for conservatorship, but Alameda Alliance officials who thought the state acted rashly with the takeover urged the judge to return local control to the not-for-profit health plan.

The important thing, Butler said, is that claims now are being paid under BRG’s management. “They’re still making decisions to bring it into better financial shape,” Butler said. “We’ll know more when the report comes out.”

The takeover was the culmination of a long struggle over the public health plan’s financial practices, state officials said. They have called it a move of last resort, and said they hope to return local control once the financial situation has settled.