Boeing Employees Sue Aetna Over Alleged Improper Denials, Terminations of Disability Benefits
A lawsuit filed Tuesday against Aetna Life Insurance and Boeing's Employee Health and Welfare Plan alleges that Aetna used a "sham claims review procedure to justify numerous wrongful denials and terminations" of disability benefits, according to a written statement by the plaintiffs' attorney, the Hartford Courant reports. The lawsuit stems from a 2002 denial of claims for a Boeing employee, Bonnie Biery, who developed chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, which forced her to retire in 2001. Boeing refused to pay the disability claim, the Courant reports. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, claims Aetna did not collect necessary medical records to evaluate disability claims and disregarded the opinions of patients' doctors. In addition, it says that Aetna enacted stricter requirements for proving disability than were established in the benefits plan. Fred Langer, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said Aetna "would routinely cherrypick pieces of subjective evidence in the claimant's file to support a denial of benefits, while turning a blind eye to objective evidence and the testimony of numerous doctors which corroborated a legitimate disability" (Levick, Hartford Courant, 12/15). Langer added that Aetna's claim review process was established to increase profits for the company (Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, 12/15). The suit seeks to force Aetna to reopen claims and allow employees to recover benefits to which they believe they are entitled and to force the company to stop the allegedly improper claims review process. The suit also seeks to represent an estimated 250 to 500 people who allegedly also were denied disability benefits (Hartford Courant, 12/15). Boeing spokesperson Kenneth Mercer said he had not read the complaint and declined to comment on the allegations (Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, 12/15). Aetna spokesperson Fred Laberge said, "It is Aetna's policy to review each disability claim based on its own merits and to make appropriate decisions based on the terms of the Boeing plan" (Hartford Courant, 12/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.