In a partial blow to the nation's health insurers, a federal judge in Miami allowed about 600,000 doctors to consolidate their lawsuits against some of the nation's largest HMOs, including Aetna and Cigna Corp., into a single class-action lawsuit with potentially massive financial penalties. But in the same ruling, U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno denied class-action certification to about 145 million patients covered by the HMOs. His ruling is the latest development in a legal battle that has been brewing for nearly three years. Several state medical associations in late 1999 accused insurers of conspiring to withhold medical care and failing to tell patients of incentives to doctors to limit care. Patients subsequently charged that they had received lower-quality care as a result. The lawsuits were consolidated in Moreno's court for pretrial motions and divided into two dockets, one for providers and one for patients. Attorneys for the HMOs had fought class-action status, arguing that a single lawsuit would be unwieldy and that individual disputes could be handled through arbitration. -- by Laura B. Benko
Doctors' case against HMOs wins class-action status
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