Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Payments Uncertain as Insurers' Settlements Expire

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Payments Uncertain as Insurers' Settlements Expire

Article excerpt

LAS VEGAS -- As more of the agreements signed by several large insurers to settle a class action suit alleging inappropriate billing practices expire, the possibility is increasing that the companies will return to the same behavior, especially given that many are being accused of violating the terms already, reported a compliance expert at an emergency medicine meeting.

Several of the health plans have said they will continue to comply with the terms of their settlements once they expire, but "not all have said that," said Edward R. Gaines III, vice president and chief compliance officer for Healthcare Business Resources in Durham, N.C., who spoke at a meeting on reimbursement sponsored by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Mr. Gaines said noncompliance among all the plans that have settled has continued to be an issue, which is being dealt with in the courts and administratively. But "the problem is, once the settlement agreement expires, I can't go back into federal court through an easy process to make my complaint heard," he said.

The settlements were struck in response to Multidistrict Litigation 1334, which was certified as a class action in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in 2002 and named Aetna Inc., Anthem Insurance Cos. Inc., Cigna, Coventry Health Care Inc., Health Net Inc., Humana Inc., PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., Prudential Insurance Co. of America, United Health Care, and WellPoint Health Networks Inc. as defendants. The suits alleged that the insurers violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by engaging in fraud and extortion in a common scheme to wrongfully deny payment to physicians.

Several state and county medical societies filed the suits on behalf of virtually every physician in the nation--about 900,000 doctors.

United Healthcare and Coventry both were summarily released from litigation. Their release has been upheld on appeal.

Aetna and Cigna struck agreements that entailed an immediate payout in response to claims filed by physicians, some changes in billing behavior, and an agreement to provide prospective relief--$300 million from Aetna and $400 million from Cigna.

Cigna's 4-year agreement has now expired, and Aetna's 4-year agreement expired in June 2007; but Aetna's agreement was extended through June 2008 because of compliance disputes. …

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