An overwhelming majority of eligible doctors have agreed to a recent settlement with Aetna and have also agreed to donate the money due them to a new foundation, according to Aetna and the president-elect of the Texas Medical Association.
The settlement is expected to be finalized Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in Miami. At that time, eight more state and county medical societies will ask to join the lawsuit, which already includes 19 state and county societies, Aetna officials say.
Buoyed by voluntary donations from doctors, the foundation is now expected to get as much as $100 million.
The foundation will be run by the 9 medical societies who negotiated the settlement, but it is unclear whether the societies seeking to join the lawsuit would also run the foundation.
The 19 medical societies currently listed as plaintiffs are from Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, North Virginia, Denton County, Texas, and El Paso County, Colorado.
The eight societies that seek to join the suit are from Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Denver County, Colo., and Clear Creek Valley, Colo., Aetna reports.
The foundation's mission is to improve quality of healthcare, reduce medical errors, reduce racial disparities in treatment, improve management of end-of-life care, and prevent childhood obesity, among other things.
More than 98% of more than 800,000 physicians in the plaintiff class have agreed to the settlement, according to David Carter, spokesman for the Hartford, Conn.-based company.
In addition, TMA President-elect Bohn Allen, M.D., says Aetna chairman and CEO John Rowe, M.D. told him in a recent meeting that more than 90% of the physicians agreed to hand over their proceeds to the foundation.
The settlement, which ended physicians' class action lawsuits over Aetna's claims-processing techniques, won preliminary approval from Moreno in Miami on May 29.
In addition to making major changes in the company's claims processing, which medical societies consider the heart of the settlement, Aetna agreed to pay $100 million to physicians to cover past losses and $20 million to the foundation.
After preliminary approval, administrators of the settlement sent letters to physician-plaintiffs asking if they wanted to opt out of the settlement or submit a "proof of claim" form to receive their share of the money.
Those who did not respond by Sept. 30 were automatically assumed to agree with the settlement and to sign over their share of the proceeds to the foundation, AMA officials report.
The Texas Medical Association reports the average practicing physician was expected to get $150 to $170 in the settlement, though retired physicians could get substantially more.
Allen, who no longer practices, says he personally was due $690, but he turned his portion over to the foundation.