Health Care Service Plan Not Liable for Provider's Failure to Diagnose Illness


On February 25, 2009, the California Supreme Court denied a petition to review the Court of Appeal decision in Watanabe v. California Physicians' Service, 169 Cal. App. 4th 56 (2008). This decision let stand the opinion by Judge Flier which held Health Care Service Plans and plan providers are separately liable for their own acts or omissions under the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 (the “Act”), notwithstanding the delegation of duties from one to the other. Blue Shield of California, a Health Care Service Plan under the Act, delegated to the plan provider the task of initially determining whether a particular service or treatment was medically necessary (what is called a “utilization review”). Plaintiff sued Blue Shield on the grounds that it wrongfully delegated the utilization review to the plan provider and, as a result, should be vicariously liable for the provider’s failure to diagnose the Plaintiff’s brain tumor. The provider settled with the Plaintiff before trial which continued against Blue Shield.

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