UnitedHealthcare handed injunction by Federal judge

A Federal judge has ordered a temporary injunction against UnitedHealthcare based on the case filed by two Connecticut-based medical associations.

The decision came hours before the health insurer was set to drop thousands of physicians and patients from its rolls. This injunction prevented UnitedHealthcare from removing any of the doctors until the court can rule on the merits of the case.

US District Court Judge Stefan Underhill ruled Friday, December 6, that the Hartford County Medical Association and Fairfield County Medical Association have “met their burden of demonstrating that they will suffer harm that is imminent and cannot be adequately compensated through damages.”

The two medical associations from Connecticut were seeking a temporary restraining order against UnitedHealthcare to prevent the insurer from removing nearly 20% physicians on the panel from its Medicare Advantage networks. If it had gone ahead with its plans, nearly 30,000 patients would have been affected.

The court order means that UnitedHealthcare will have to start proceedings from the beginning. However, the insurer maintains that it plans to immediately appeal against the decision.

“We believe the court’s ruling will create unnecessary and harmful confusion and disruption to Medicare beneficiaries in Connecticut,” says Terry O’Hara, of UnitedHealthcare Group, in an emailed statement. “We know that these changes can be concerning for some doctors and customers, and supporting our customers is our highest priority. United Healthcare will continue to stay focused on the people we serve.”

This ruling will only affect members of Hartford County Medical and Fairfield County Medical associations. The affected physicians, more than 2,200 in number, reportedly belong to Hartford, New Haven and New London counties.

The judge ruled that UnitedHealthcare appears to have breached its contract with the physicians by removing them without cause or explanation, causing a violation of Medicare regulations.

For the time being, the injunction stays and only time will tell how this will shape up in the days to come.

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