Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island said it will pay $17.5 million to settle two class-action lawsuits that accused the insurer of bilking members by not passing along discounts from providers and suppliers. Under the settlement, approved by judges in U.S. District Court and state Superior Court, 116,200 of the Blues' current and former members will receive refund checks averaging $93. The 680,000-member insurer also will pay $5.7 million in attorney fees, $25,000 to each of the five named plaintiffs and $50,000 for charitable purposes. The lawsuits date to 1996, when a Providence couple sued the company in both state and federal court for allegedly securing secret discounts for drugs and services while billing patients for copayments based on full prices. The state suit also alleged that members covered by the insurer's ClassicBlue plan were billed at the higher rates applied to non-network doctors even when the members went to network doctors. The cases were consolidated in 2003. The Rhode Island Blues agreed to the settlement in January. The Blues plan did not admit wrongdoing. -- by Laura B. Benko
R.I. Blues settles member suit over provider discounts
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