Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Blue Shield’s Doctor-Rating Database
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit the California Medical Association filed last year claiming Blue Shield of California's online physician-rating system is misleading and inaccurate, the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" reports.
Blue Shield launched the Blue Ribbon Recognition Program in June 2010. It posts blue ribbon icons next to the names of physicians who meet federal standards for quality care.
CMA sued to shut down the rating system, claiming it:
- Fails to include some data from patient medical charts, outcomes and prior treatmentsÂ (Hennessy-Fiske, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 3/25);
- Relies only on a few years of data from five insurance products sold by Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross and UnitedHealthcare; and
- Does not provide physicians with an opportunity to correct potential errors in their ratings (California Healthline, 9/13/10).
On Friday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Steven Brick dismissed CMA's claims ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 3/25). He agreed with assertions by Blue Shield's attorneys that the program was a protected form of speech that benefits consumers (Jewett, California Watch, 3/28).
Brick also ruled that CMA did not provide evidence that any physicians were hurt as a result of the ranking system.
The ruling represents the first time a California court has weighed in on onlineÂ ranking programs. Medical associations in several states have tried to block similar rating systems (Gallegos, Los Angeles Daily Journal, 3/27).
Blue Shield, CMA Respond
In a statement, Blue Shield said the judge's decision is a "validation that Blue Shield has every right to recognize high-performing physicians," adding, "We are fully committed to providing our members and the general public with information they can use in evaluating the physicians who best fit their needs" (California Watch, 3/28).
Long Do -- director of litigation for the medical association -- said CMA was "especially disappointed that the court is not even allowing us to litigate the reasons why we filed the lawsuit, which are that we believe Blue Shield is using faulty and flawed data about physicians that not only misleads patients but harms the reputations of doctors."
Attorneys for the association said they are considering an appeal (Los Angeles Daily Journal, 3/27).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.