The courts have sided with UC-Davis Medical Center, ruling this week that Sacramento County must pay for emergency services for indigent patients.
Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly said the county has a responsibility to pay for indigent care, whether the county contracts with a specific provider of those emergency services or not.
"The judge rejected every defense the county had to not pay us," UC-Davis attorney David Levine said. "He conclusively confirmed that they owe us money, and they have to pay us."
Another hearing will determine how much the county owes UCD Med Center. Levine estimates it "in the multiple tens of millions of dollars." Other counties pay for indigents' emergency services, Levine said. He doesn't know of any other county that has gone to court to try to halt those payments.
"This is good news for the university, for the community, for the indigents," Levine said. "It's good news."
County officials said that they've always been willing to resolve issues with UCD Med Center and that the ruling doesn't change that. And according to Brad Hudson, a Sacramento County official, the county finds itself in an unusual position -- pinched by state budget cuts, and now by a California university's lawsuit.
"It's unfortunate that an arm of the state chose to sue Sacramento County over payment of indigent health care services at UC-Davis, when ironically the state has grossly underfunded this program at the county level."
Sacramento County lost a similar court case last month. That case dealt with a Sacramento County resident who became ill while visiting Monterey County and went to a hospital emergency department in Monterey. The court ruled that indigent care responsibility applied no matter where the care was delivered and ordered Sacramento County to pay.