Individual HMO Members Drop Lawsuits Against Insurers After Denial of Class-Action Status
After individual HMO members were denied class-action status in a case filed against insurers, attorneys representing the individuals are "quietly" beginning to drop lawsuits that they had hoped would become "a national vehicle for a microscopic examination of the managed care industry's business practices," the Hartford Courant reports (Hartford Courant, 5/2). Patient and physician lawsuits from around the country against HMOs -- including Aetna, United Healthcare, Cigna, Coventry Health Care, WellPoint, Humana Health Plan, PacifiCare Health Systems and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield -- were consolidated in Miami more than two years ago. On Sept. 26, 2002, U.S. District Court Judge Federico Moreno refused to allow class-action status for fraud suits filed by millions of HMO members; however, in the same ruling he approved class-action status for up to 600,000 physicians suing for similar charges. Lawyers representing the patients argued that HMOs violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by conspiring to withhold medical care and by not telling HMO members that their doctors received financial incentives to control costs. But Moreno said HMO members will have to sue their health plans individually because the number of potential class-action plaintiffs -- up to 145 million -- would have been too difficult to manage and lawyers failed to show that the HMOs engaged in a common scheme (California Healthline, 9/27/02). The lawsuits filed by physicians are still set to proceed, but insurance companies have appealed the ruling granting them class-action status (Hartford Courant, 5/2).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.