U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno has cast aside most of the last claims remaining from a cloud of litigation that once appeared to threaten the survival of the U.S. private managed care industry.
The judge, who serves in the U.S. District Court in Miami, has issued a summary judgment order dismissing all claims still in play against UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., and Coventry Health Care Inc., Bethesda, Md.
“After reviewing thousands of documents, there simply is insufficient evidence of the wrongdoing claimed–i.e., agreeing with their competitors to defraud the doctors,” Moreno writes in an explanation of his decision to dismiss the remaining charges.
“The court is not giving its imprimatur to the defendants’ actions or to the tremendous amount of compensation received by their executives,” the judge writes. “But any reform related to executive compensation or individual practices by the health maintenance organizations is beyond the power of this court. Those desiring changes in the way health care is provided in America must either look for remedies before Congress or allow the free market to dictate the results.”
At press time, it was not known whether lawyers for the plaintiffs could or would try to revive the claims.
If the summary judgment stands, it will end litigation in the case Charles B. Shane, M.D., et al. vs. Humana Inc. et al., which is part of in In re Managed Care Litigation, Case Number 1334.
Some claims in another In re Managed Care Litigation case, Kenneth A. Thomas, M.D., et al. vs. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association et al., are still in court.
A group of lawyers began filing waves of purported class-action suits on behalf of patients and health care providers against managed care companies in the late 1990s, and, in 1999, the courts consolidated much of the litigation in Miami under Moreno’s jurisdiction.
At one point, the litigation seemed to be such a grave threat that the stock market was giving the managed care operations at Aetna Inc., Hartford, what appeared to be a “market capitalization” value, or market value, of negative $1 billion.