On Tuesday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a bill (SB 1528) that would alter a 2011 state Supreme Court ruling on medical damages in personal injury cases, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.
The committee approved the measure on a party-line vote of 6-3.
Details of Legislation
Last year, the California Supreme Court ruled in the case of Howell v. Hamilton Meats that when an injured party's medical costs are covered by a negotiated insurance settlement, the plaintiff cannot seek additional funds to compensate for the full cost of health care services.
SB 1528 would allow plaintiffs covered by Medi-Cal and other managed care plans to recover the full cost of care, rather than the amount set by the negotiated insurance settlement.
Comments on Bill
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the bill is needed to clarify the Supreme Court ruling so that insurers do not "get away with" paying lower amounts in certain cases.
Steinberg and other supporters of the bill -- including Consumer Attorneys of California -- argue that it does not overturn the court's decision.
However, opponents of the bill -- including businesses and medical and insurance groups -- told the judiciary committee that the legislation effectively would reverse the ruling and could undermine state law limiting pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000.
Insurers said that the ruling saves them and their policyholders as much as $3 billion annually but that it also reduces contingency fees that plaintiffs' attorneys can charge.
Kaiser Permanente lobbyist Teresa Stark told the committee that "[t]here's no problem that needs to be solved here" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/28).