Health Law

Jury awards record $524M in Hep C case; lawyer calls verdict a wake-up call to health insurers

In what is being billed as a record-high verdict in Nevada for a single case, a jury has awarded a total of $524 million to three individuals, two of whom said they got Hepatitis C as a result of treatment by a doctor who contracted with the defendant health insurer to provide endoscopy services.

The Health Plan of Nevada plans to appeal the verdict—and, in particular, the $500 million in punitive damages, contending that it is not responsible for what it called “the criminal conduct of independent doctors,” according to CBS Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

A plaintiff’s lawyer called the verdict a wake-up call alerting health insurers that they can’t simply send patients to the doctors who charge the least without considering health consequences to those promised medical insurance coverage.

“You cannot go around grinding the doctors’ reimbursement rates down and expect to be able to provide quality health care to your insured members. The health care industry needs to wake up,” said attorney Robert Eglet. He said he expects the verdict to send a message to HPN; its former parent company, Sierra Health Services; and all other U.S. health insurance companies.

HPN said such verdicts will only increase the cost of health care and health insurance to individuals.

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