COCSA Joins ERISA Class Action Against UnitedHealth Group For Improper Recoupment Abuses

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The Congress Of Chiropractic State Associations, COCSA, Has Voted To Join A National ERISA Class Action Filed By Pomerantz, One Of The Nation’s Preeminent Class Action Firms, Against UnitedHealth Group. In The Action, COCSA Will Be Representing Its Members, State Chiropractic Associations In All 50 States, In Combatting Alleged ERISA Violations In Overpayment Recoupment Abuses.

By far, chiropractic plaintiffs have led all other healthcare providers in seeking judicial guidance and legal victories against abusive overpayment recoupment crisis faced by all healthcare providers.

On Feb. 8, 2011, the Board of the Congress Of Chiropractic State Associations (“COCSA”) voted to join a national ERISA Class Action, on behalf of its State Association members, against UnitedHealth Group to challenge overpayment recoupment abuses. The action was originally filed on Jan. 24, 2011 by Pomerantz Haudek Grossman & Gross LLP, one of the nation’s preeminent class action law firms and a leader in combating the abuses of the health insurance industry, on behalf of a group of chiropractors, and the Ohio State Chiropractic Association (OSCA). Pomerantz seeks to represent a nationwide class of all health care providers who have been subjected to improper demands by UnitedHealth Group to repay previously paid health care benefits for services provided to UnitedHealth Group subscribers, only to have such funds forcibly recouped by the withholding of future payments from unrelated claims in alleged violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), the Federal law governing private employee benefit plans. The latest Class Action against UnitedHealth Group is the third national class action filed by Pomerantz, following similar litigations brought against Aetna and 23 Blue Cross Blue Shield entities filed within the last two years. Initial court rulings have been favorable to provider plaintiffs.

By far, chiropractic plaintiffs have led all other healthcare providers in seeking judicial guidance and legal victories against abusive overpayment recoupment crisis faced by all healthcare providers. COCSA is dedicated to supporting all provider class actions that benefit chiropractors by seeking to stop such abusive and discriminative insurance practices. Through this historic and landmark decision to join the class action, COCSA will be asserting its right, through representational standing, to obtain appropriate equitable relief to address the abuses at issue on behalf of its State Association members in all 50 states.

UnitedHealth Group, which acquired the health insurance business of Health Net of the Northeast in December 2009, is the nation's largest private health plan by revenue. The action alleges that the post-payment audit and review process as applied by the Defendants violates ERISA in that its repayment demands are retroactive adverse benefit determinations that particular services are not covered under the terms of the United and Health Net health care plans, but without proper appeals or other protections otherwise available under ERISA for both self-funded and fully insured health care plans offered through private employers.

"ERISA establishes the procedures that insurance companies must follow when making benefit determinations – whether prior to payment or retroactively," says Plaintiffs' counsel, D. Brian Hufford of Pomerantz. "The Defendants here, as is true for many insurance companies, are violating their ERISA obligations in order to recover funds that simply do not belong to them."

In the complaint, Plaintiffs allege that, as a means to maximize their profits, United and Health Net used their post-payment audit and review process to make retroactive adverse benefit determinations whereby they demand that providers repay funds they had previously received for providing services to United and Health Net subscribers. Moreover, Defendants frequently withhold new benefit payments for unrelated services to apply toward the alleged overpayments, even where there has been no valid appeal process or validation that any sums are in fact owed by the providers, a practice called "offsetting." Plaintiffs' Co-Counsel, Vincent Buttaci of Buttaci & Leardi, LLC, states that "providers are placed in an untenable position as a result of false fraud allegations made against them in an effort to coerce and intimidate, and through our lawsuit they are now fighting back."

A copy of the official Class Action Complaint against UnitedHealth Group can be found at http://www.erisaclaim.com/UHC_Complaint.pdf
The court papers filed on Jan. 24, 2011, in United States District Court, District Of New Jersey, Case 2:11-cv-00425-FSH –PS:

In the last year alone, the chiropractic profession has obtained what may well be more significant reimbursement legal victories than in its entire 105 year history. On Jan. 24, 2011, a Federal district court in Chicago dismissed BCBS’s state law counterclaims against one of the plaintiff chiropractors in the largest ERISA class action brought against 23 BCBS entities filed in 2009, after the court upheld the ERISA claims on May 17, 2010, in denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss. On October 27, 2010, a Federal district court ruled against BCBS of Rhode Island which was seeking to pursue state law claims for more than $400,000 against a chiropractic physician and an occupational therapist, finding that ERISA “completely preempts,” supersedes and limits BCBSRI overpayment recoupment practices. The court reaffirmed this decision on Jan. 19, 2011, in denying BCBSRI’s motion to reconsider its earlier ruling on federal subject matter jurisdiction and denying its parallel motion to certify the Court’s interlocutory order for immediate appeal to the First Circuit. A Preliminary Injunction against BCBSRI was issued by the court on Nov. 11, 2010 to force it to halt its ongoing recoupment of new benefit payments.

Pa. Chiropractic Assn. vs. BCBS Assn., et al., CASE #: 1:09-cv-05619, United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois.

BCBSRI v. Korsen et al, filed on 01/19/2011, Case#: 1:09-cv-00317-L-LDA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND

“Although COCSA didn’t lead to initiate these initial victories, COCSA is certainly taking the lead to finish our fight for justice and equality in the healthcare market, in advocating for appropriate chiropractic care for all of our patients. While we salute our colleagues whose legal wisdom guided our profession to this great start, COCSA has positioned our profession to ensure our victories from start to finish. Our COCSA decision today to join is the proof for this timely leadership,” said Dr. Kate C Rufolo, DC, President of COCSA.

“ERISA is the federal law that protects patients and providers from improper denials and delays. When all internal appeals fail to resolve denials and/or payers fail to comply with ERISA, a lawsuit is normally filed as an ERISA judicial appeal to a federal court to resolve administrative grievances,” said Dr. John LaMonica, DC, COCSA Officer, whose New York Chiropractic Council was the plaintiff for the class action against 23 BCBS entities, and also a key driver for today’s COCSA decision.

The Congress of Chiropractic State Associations, COCSA, was formed in the late 1960’s and is a not-for-profit organization consisting of state chiropractic associations in all 50 states. The mission of the Congress is to provide an open, nonpartisan forum for the promotion and advancement of the chiropractic profession through service to member state associations. COCSA will lead the profession in compliance with new healthcare reform law, PPACA and existing federal law, ERISA, for proper reimbursement.

Any questions on this press release, call COCSA at 316-613-3386, or visit COCSA at http://cocsa.org/.

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