Humana and Aetna U.S. Healthcare last week were hit with class-action lawsuits alleging that they misled HMO enrollees by failing to adequately disclose terms of coverage and treatment.
The lawsuits are the first stemming from the threatened new wave of litigation against the managed-care industry made earlier this month by several high-profile plaintiff law firms (Oct. 4, p. 16).
The Humana suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Miami, claims that the Louisville, Ky.-based managed-care company concealed information about how it decides which claims to pay. The law firms Boies & Schiller of Armonk, N.Y., and Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll of Washington filed the suit on behalf of five Humana enrollees. Humana officials said they have not been served with the suit, but they said the 6.1 million-enrollee company intends to vigorously defend itself.
Meanwhile, two separate class-action suits against 21 million-enrollee Aetna U.S. Healthcare were filed.
The first was filed by the Philadelphia law firm Berger & Montague on Oct. 4 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. There is one named plaintiff in the case.
The second was filed by a legal team led by Scruggs, Millette, Bozeman & Dent of Pascagoula, Miss., on Oct. 7 in U.S. District Court in Hattiesburg, Miss. There is one named plaintiff in that case as well.
In written statements, Aetna officials said the lawsuits' claims are "outrageous" and characterized them as part of a broader attack on managed care. The company promised to defend itself against an expected wave of legal attacks.
Separately, parent company Aetna last week said its board of directors had authorized the repurchase over the next two years of $1 billion of its common stock, which has plummeted in value by half in the past year, much of that in the past few weeks.
Fears about lawsuits and patient-protection legislation being considered by Congress have devastated the stock prices of many managed-care plans since mid-September.