NU Online News Service, July 25, 11:20 a.m. – A judge in the U.S. District Court in Miami heard arguments Monday about whether to certify a group of suits by patients against large managed care companies and former managed care companies as a class-action suit.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs involved in the matter, In Re: Managed Care Litigation, told U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno that the companies used hidden financial incentives to discourage doctors from providing the level of care promised in the companies’ marketing materials and member handbooks, according to press reports.

Lawyers for the managed care companies told the judge that the plaintiffs in the suits are making allegations about specific conditions that affected specific patients, and that the allegations should be brought through the individual suits.

If lawyers for the patients succeed at obtaining class certification, they could up representing a class of as many as 50 million patients.

The defendants in the case include Aetna Inc., Hartford; CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia; Humana Inc., Louisville, Ky.; and UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, N.J., is also a plaintiff, even though it has sold its managed care operations to Aetna.

Richard Scruggs, a Pascagoula, Miss., lawyer who helped organize a successful class-action suit against U.S. tobacco companies, is leading the “REPAIR” team — legal team representing the plaintiffs.

More information about the litigation is available from the U.S. District Court site, at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/default.asp?file=cases/index.html