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Report: Aetna, doctors settle

By Associated Press
Published May 22, 2003

HARTFORD, Conn. - Aetna Inc. has agreed to a $470-million settlement with more than 600,000 doctors who alleged in a class-action lawsuit filed in Florida that insurers wrongly cut payments to them, according to news reports.

The insurer also will settle claims that it interfered with doctors' recommended treatment for patients, the Hartford Courant and the Wall Street Journal reported on their Web sites Wednesday night, citing sources familiar with the agreement.

Aetna will revamp bill payment systems so there will be fewer cuts in reimbursements to doctors, according to the reports.

The company, which is based in Hartford, Conn., is expected to announce the settlement today in New York. Aetna officials did not immediately return calls to their offices and homes Wednesday night by the Associated Press.

Aetna reportedly is not admitting wrongdoing in the settlement.

The company would be the first insurer to settle a number of physician suits, some dating to 1999, that have been consolidated in U.S. District Court in Miami.

Aetna, Cigna Corp.,UnitedHealth Group Inc., Wellpoint Health Networks Inc., Anthem Inc., Humana Inc., PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. and other managed care companies were accused of improperly denying and delaying payments to physicians.

The suits allege that insurers used their coercive economic power to force doctors into unfavorable contracts and used pay schemes - including tests and referrals to specialists - to reduce the amount of care.

Aetna is expected to take a $75-million charge against earnings, on an after-tax basis, to account for the settlement, the Journal reported.

[Last modified May 22, 2003, 01:30:54]

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