Houston Court Brings the Heat in Payer Provider Case

bcbs lawsuitBy: Jeff Cohen 

A recent Texas District Court case took the usually frustrating ERISA dynamics applicable in payer provider disputes and upended them in a way that helped the provider.  There (Cigna v. Humble Surgical Hospital, Civ. Action No. 4:13-CV-3291, U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Tex., Houston Division), the court was faced with an out of network hospital sued by CIGNA to recover payments made.  In particular, the case involved—

  • An out of network hospital (HSH);
  • HSH set its prices higher than neighboring in network hospitals;
  • HSH billed Cigna members for deductibles and coinsurance at in network rates, but billed Cigna on an out of network basis;
  • Cigna alleged that the billing practices of HSH caused Cigna to pay more than its required share under applicable plans, even though plan members paid little or nothing at all;
  • Cigna also alleged HSH paid owner physicians referral fees to induce patient referrals; and
  • Cigna sought to recover payments made to HSH.

The case is a departure from the usual scenario, which involves (a) providers suing payers for payment and relying on state laws to do so, and (b) provides side stepping those state laws by successfully arguing that the federal ERISA law applies (which usually offers provides less favorable remedies). Continue reading