CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News UpdateNEVADA: Nev Jury Orders HMO to Pay $500M in Hepatitis Case
April 22, 2013
Las Vegas Sun (04.17.13)
Aids Weekly Plus
Three patients who contracted hepatitis at a health care clinic will receive $500 million in damages from UnitedHealth Group, Inc. as the result of a successful civil negligence suit. UnitedHealth had received warnings that a Las Vegas physician cut corners that put patients at risk for contracting blood-borne diseases at the clinic. However, two subsidiaries of UnitedHealth—Health Plan of Nevada and Sierra Health Services—contracted with the physician anyway, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the suit.
The jury’s award was far less than the $2.5 billion sought by the plaintiffs. However, Bonnie and Carl Brunson’s attorney, Robert Eglet, stated that the jury sent a “strong message” to health maintenance organizations and health insurers that they must establish fair reimbursement to providers so they can deliver quality health care. The third plaintiff, Helen Meyer, also indicated her satisfaction with the jury’s award. Health Plan of Nevada will pay the victims $270 million, and parent company Sierra Health Services will pay $230 million in damages.
UnitedHealth spokesman Tyler Mason warned that holding insurance companies liable for the negligent conduct of individual physicians will result in higher insurance premiums for Nevadans. UnitedHealth will appeal the decision.