A group of Mississippi
lawyers who took on the tobacco industry are now going after five of the
nation's largest health maintenance organizations. The lawsuit claims the HMOs
failed to provide promised health care to 32 million
The lawsuit was filed earlier this week in federal court in Hattiesburg, Miss. The lead attorney is Richard Scruggs, who led the lawsuits filed against the tobacco industry that resulted in a $246 billion settlement. According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, Scruggs says the class-action lawsuits are "to fix the broken promises the HMO industry has made to the people who entrust their very lives in these companies."
The lawsuits claim Pacificare Health Systems Inc., Foundation Health Systems Inc., Cigna Healthcare, Prudential Health Care and Humana Inc. violated the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The lawsuits accuse the five HMOs of offering financial incentives such as bonuses to physicians who restricted their patients' access to expensive health-care treatments.
Alan Hoops, chief executive of Pacificare, says litigation will drive up health care costs for patients. Fred Laberge, a spokesman for Aetna/US Healthcare, which recently purchased Prudential, says there's no basis for the alligations.