A&A: CPRA request for state agency’s contracts granted, but price-tag redacted

Q: I’m a journalist researching the CA Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board’s relationship with a particular company that supplies one type of specialized medical insurance for the state.

I recently sent the Insurance Board a public records request for various documents, including a request for the state’s contract with the firm. I was sent the contract but the contract amount was blotted out on the grounds that  parts of Govt. Code Sec. 6254 allows it to withhold that information.

What I’d like to know is if that statute or current case law agrees that Insurance Board can withhold from the public how much the state is paying the firm to underwrite these policies?

A: Although the Public Records Act, Govt. Code section 6250 et seq., provides generally that records of state and local agencies are open for inspection by the public, it does contain numerous exceptions. Among these exceptions are sections 6254(v), 6254(w) and 6254(y) each of which exempt certain records of the Managed Risk Medical Risk Insurance Board.

You can review these statutes on this page: California Public Records Act (text of the law) . I am not aware of any court that has had occasion to interpret these provisions.

If the records you seek from the Insurance Board are  included in those sections then the Public Records Act does indeed permit the agency to withhold them.

As a general matter it appears that contracts for health coverage entered into after January 1, 1998 “shall be open to inspection one year after they have been fully executed:” except that the rates of payment need not be disclosed until three years after the contract is open to inspection (or four years from the date the contract is fully executed). Govt. Code section 6254(y)(2)(A),(B).
I do not know enough about the specifics of the Insurance Board program to know whether or not this provision applies to the specific contract amount information you seek.

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