The Maul Firm, P.C.

Health Law and Policy

Anthony F. Maul is an attorney and public policy consultant with over a decade of experience in complex and class action litigation. With a practice focused on health care advocacy and reform, Mr. Maul provides expert legal and consulting services to patients, providers and professional associations.

Filtering by Tag: Class certification

Court Blesses Provider Class Action Challenging Horizon's Bundling Policies

Judge William J. Martini of the District of New Jersey has granted class certification in an action by chiropractors challenging the bundling practices of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey ("Horizon").  The action asserts claims under ERISA and the common law stemming from Horizon's practice of incorporating payments for evaluation and management ("E/M") and physical therapy ("PT") services into a single "global fee" for chiropractic manipulation.

In granting class certification under both Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3) and (b)(1)(B), Judge Martini opined that the plaintiffs presented evidence that Horizon's systematic denial of E/M and PT services violated the terms of all of the relevant health plans and provider agreements.  As a result, the class certification motion posed a "simple, concrete question":

Can the Court fairly and efficiently determine whether the bundling policy violated the rights of the proposed classes? Or do the individual inquiries that will be required to ultimately determine what, if any, actual damages each class member gets, pose such an overwhelming problem as to make class certification impractical and unfair? On the evidence produced, the Court can indeed determine, on a class-wide basis, whether the bundling policy violated ERISA or breached all the non-ERISA contracts in this case.

Significantly, Judge Martini also held that questions regarding provider assignment of benefits, or the potential applicability of anti-assignment clauses, did not pose individual issues sufficient to defeat class certification. This is because the claim forms submitted by the class members to Horizon all contained an assignment of benefits, and Horizon's course of dealing with those class members rendered any anti-assignment clauses "null and void." That holding is of a piece with similar findings reached by Judge Debevoise when he similarly certified a provider class in the Premier v. UnitedHealth case we've discussed previously. Together, these decisions confirm the ability of providers to challenge insurer claims practices through ERISA class actions.

The action is entitled Demaria v. Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc. and the Court's decision can be read here. The Maul Firm is collaborating on this case with class counsel Buttaci & Leardi LLC and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.

Court Certifies Class of Providers Challenging Repayment Demands by UnitedHealthCare

Senior U.S. District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise of the District of New Jersey has certified a class of healthcare providers challenging UnitedHealthCare's ("UHC") policy of issuing repayment demands to out-of-network providers without complying with the notice and appeal rights mandated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). The plaintiffs representing the certified class are a midwest-based provider of durable medical equipment and a surgical center operating in Beverly Hills, California. The case is entitled Premier Health Center, P.C. et al. v. UnitedHealth Group, et al., No. 11-425 (ES) (D.N.J.).

The Court's opinion can be viewed here. In finding that the plaintiffs satisfied the requirements for certification under federal rules, Judge Debevoise reaffirmed an earlier holding that UHC's repayment demands violate ERISA rules in at least three respects common to the class:

First, they fail to provide “[a] description of the plan's review procedures and the time limits applicable to such procedures, including a statement of the claimant's right to bring a civil action under section 502(a) of [ERISA] following an adverse benefit determination on review.” 29 C.F.R. § 2560.503–1(g)(1)(iv). Second, they fail to indicate that the provider, “upon request and free of charge, [will have] reasonable access to, and copies of, all documents, records, and other information relevant to the” overpayment determination. 29 C.F.R. § 2560.503–1(h)(2)(ii). Third, they fail to “[p]rovide claimants at least 180 days following receipt of a notification of an adverse benefit determination within which to appeal the determination.” 29 C.F.R. § 2560.503–1(h)(3)(i).
Defendants fail to provide any evidence whatsoever that United substantially complied with the three aforementioned ERISA regulations....

The class representatives are joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit with several national and state associations of chiropractors. In addition to challenging UHC's repayment demands, these chiropractic associations have also asserted claims challenging UHC's practices with respect to provider profiling, pre-authorization and utilization review.

The plaintiffs are represented by Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, Buttaci & Leardi LLC and the Maul Firm P.C. Out-of-network providers with pending repayment demands from UHC or its subsidiaries are encouraged to e-mail attorney Anthony F. Maul.

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