A federal judge in Miami was expected to grant final approval to a $470 million settlement reached between Aetna, Hartford, Conn., and plaintiffs' attorneys representing 900,000 doctors who claim they were routinely shortchanged by the nation's largest health insurers. "All evidence we have suggests that it will be approved," said William Popik, Aetna's chief medical officer. The settlement, which received preliminary approval from U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in late May, calls for Aetna to pay $100 million to doctors, or an average of $142 each, plus $20 million to establish a healthcare foundation and $50 million in legal fees. Aetna also plans to invest about $300 million to speed its claims processing and improve communication with physicians. Popik said the vast majority of eligible physicians have agreed to donate their share of the award to the new foundation. Only 11,000 doctors, or less than 1% of the class, have opted out of the settlement, allowing them to pursue their claims against Aetna individually, Popik said.
Cigna Corp. reached a $540 million settlement last month, and Moreno gave preliminary approval pending a final hearing Dec. 18. The remaining defendants- Anthem, Coventry Health Care, Health Net, Humana, PacifiCare Health Systems, UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint Health Networks-have waged an appeal in Atlanta challenging the case's class-action status. -- by Laura B. Benko