A federal judge's ruling Tuesday brought to more than $334 million the amount that insurance company Amerigroup Corp. and its Illinois affiliate owe in damages and penalties for discriminating against pregnant women.
In Chicago, U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber levied more than $190 million in civil penalties against Amerigroup and the affiliate.
He said the companies' actions ''constituted a several years long, institutionwide goal to fleece defendants' pockets at the expense of the government, the Medicaid system and the avoided pregnant women'' and others with expensive health conditions.
Virginia Beach, Va.-based Amerigroup specializes in healthcare for low-income patients. Its chief executive officer promised an aggressive appeal; the company has hired former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson to lead its appeals team.
Following a three-week trial, a federal jury in October returned a verdict against the company and called for $48 million in damages, an amount that was tripled to $144 million under the federal False Claims Act.
Federal and state prosecutors as well as whistle-blower Cleveland Tyson said that while marketing its services in Illinois, Amerigroup avoided pregnant women and others with possibly expensive medical conditions.
That cheated the government, which subsidized the company to market its services evenly among all low-income patients regardless of whether they were pregnant or had costly illnesses, the attorneys said.
Attorneys for Amerigroup denied any fraud was involved, saying the company had publicly stated it was trying to reduce the number of third-trimester women signed up to ensure ''continuity of care.'' -- by the Associated Press