A federal appeals court on Friday denied UnitedHealthcare’s requests to toss out a legal battle brought by doctor associations in Fairfield and Hartford counties and directs doctors to arbitration.
The decision, however, modified a temporary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport that halted UnitedHealthcare’s plan to cut thousands of Connecticut doctors from its Medicare Advantage network.
That injunction is modified to give the aggrieved doctors up to 30 days from Feb. 7 to challenge their removal from the insurer’s network through arbitration — and the doctors can seek emergency or injunctive relief from the arbitrator in order to continue to remain in the network.
The decision was issued Friday by a three-judge panel at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. The case could continue in the Bridgeport court or doctors who are members of either the Hartford County Medical Association or Fairfield County Medical Association could take their case to an arbitrator.
The judges denied UnitedHealthcare’s request for a stay of the U.S. District Court’s decision, and they rejected the insurer’s claims that the doctor groups didn’t have standing. The judges struck down UnitedHealthcare’s argument that the legal battle was insubstantial.
Both UnitedHealthcare and doctors claimed victory.
“We are pleased that the court determined the injunction should be lifted in short order and are happy to work with physicians who have concerns about their status, even as it remains essential to offer networks that provide better health outcomes and more affordable coverage for our members,” UnitedHealthcare spokeswoman Jessica Pappas said in a prepared statement.
Fairfield County Medical Association’s executive director, Mark Thompson, said he was pleased with the decision because arbitration will require the insurer to explain why, exactly, these doctors were cut from the network.
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