Miami Judge Delays Trial in Physician Class-Action Lawsuit Against HMOs
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in Miami has postponed the trial in a racketeering lawsuit brought by more than 600,000 physicians against six of the largest U.S. health insurers until Sept. 6, instead of the first week in March, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports (Singer, South Florida Sun Sentinel, 12/30/04).
In the lawsuit, physicians allege that Humana Health Plan, PacifiCare Health Systems, UnitedHealthcare, WellPoint Health Networks, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Health Net delayed or denied reimbursements for health services and illegally rejected claims for necessary medical treatments as part of a racketeering conspiracy. Aetna and Cigna, which also were named as defendants in the lawsuit, have settled with the physicians for a total of $1.01 billion (California Healthline, 4/26/04).
Moreno made the decision to delay the trial after the insurers appealed his earlier rulings, actions which postponed the taking of depositions, providing witness lists and deciding on how to handle procedural motions (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/30/04). Moreno in September 2002 approved class-action status for the lawsuit. The health insurers appealed Moreno's decision over concerns that the lawsuit could lead to financial disaster for the companies. In September 2004, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld class-action status for the suit (American Health Line, 9/7/04).
Archie Lamb, co-lead counsel for the physicians, said on Wednesday that the doctors' lawyers are working "around the clock" to meet Moreno's deadlines. "We have to have all our work done by May," he said. According to the Sun-Sentinel, a pretrial conference will be held June 7, followed by a summer hiatus (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/30/04).