NU Online News Service, April 23, 2004, 11:54 a.m. EDT – The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has dismissed all appeals challenging a settlement agreement negotiated by CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia, and lawyers representing 700,000 U.S. doctors.[@@]

The ruling clears the way for implementation of the settlement, CIGNA says.

Miami U.S. District Court Judge Federico Moreno approved the settlement in February.

CIGNA negotiated the settlement to resolve its share of the managed care suits now being heard on a consolidated basis in Miami.

Lawyers began organizing suits, which accuse managed care companies of working together to lower and delay payments to doctors, in 1999. The federal courts put many of the suits under Moreno’s jurisdiction in October 2000.

The settlement agreement calls for CIGNA to improve communications with doctors, and to clarify and streamline its system for handling claims. The parties involved have estimated that the changes in practices have a value of about $400 million.

CIGNA also has agreed to pay doctors a minimum of $85 million and to help start a health care foundation and a physician advisory committee.