Supreme Court leaves managed care class action intact

The trial is scheduled to begin in federal court in Miami on Sept. 6.

By Tanya Albert amednews correspondent — Posted Jan. 31, 2005

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It's official: Lawsuits that question the way HMOs pay physicians will go forward as a class action that includes more than 900,000 working and retired doctors nationwide. The question was resolved for good earlier this month when the U.S. Supreme Court said it wouldn't hear an appeal of a lower court ruling upholding the massive litigation's class-action status.

"This denial clearly is a great turn of events for us," said Archie Lamb, co-lead counsel for the physicians and medical associations that filed the lawsuits. "The HMOs are faced directly with settling or trying these cases."

Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for the HMOs being sued said they are concentrating on preparing for trial. "We are confident that when the evidence is shown to the jury in the trial that we will prevail."

Health Net, Humana, PacifiCare Health Systems, Prudential Insurance Co. of America, UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint Health Networks remain defendants in the lawsuits. Aetna and CIGNA executives already settled lawsuits against their companies.

The trial is scheduled for Sept. 6 in U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno's courtroom in the Southern District of Florida. The doctors allege, among other things, that the HMOs conspired to systematically underpay physicians by doing things such as using computer programs to automatically downcode or bundle claims.

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