Search results for Offset

Federal Court Cuts Down Aetna: Rules “Aetna’s Cross-Plan Offsetting Violates ERISA”

On June 21, 2021, in an unpublished decision, the United States District Court for the District of NJ rules “Aetna’s Cross-Plan Offsetting Is Unlawful.” Court also concludes Aetna’s state-law-based justifications for its cross-plan offsetting are preempted by ERISA.

This watershed case is the culmination of many cases we have written about over the years, in regards to “Cross-Plan Offsets”. United States District Judge, Brian R. Martinotti, put the final nail in the coffin with respect to the health insurance industry practice of cross plan offsetting with his extraordinary ruling:

“Aetna’s Cross Plan Offsetting violates ERISA”

Cross-plan offsetting is a method insurers use to pull back alleged overpayments related to patients from one plan by reducing or eliminating payments related to patients from a different self-insured plan. Alleged overpayment recoupments and offsets (post payment adverse benefit determinations) are the nation’s No.1 medical claim denial, as insurers and TPA’s increasingly use post-payment audits as a means to recover what they allege to be prior overpayments of health care benefits, particularly when other self-insured health plan assets are involved. According to industry estimates and court records from a different case, national insurance carriers collect Billion$$ a year in offset activity.

As we have written about before, the No. 1 health care claims denial in the country is “overpayment” recoupments through “Cross-Plan Offsets”; in the same way,

The No.1 hidden cost for Self-Insured health plans, is “Overpayment” recoupment through “Cross-Plan Offsets” and subsequent embezzlement of plan assets. 

Accordingly, all self-insured health plans nationwide should look to recover Billion$$ in refunds from the past decade of successful plan assets TPA/ASO anti-fraud recoupments and managed care savings in the private sector.

“It can be argued that the failure to safeguard plan assets is definitely a breach of fiduciary duty, under ERISA, and now the courts have provided a legal formula for plan assets recovery” says Mark Flores, Vice President of Avym Corp. and national healthcare claims expert.

As the DOL ramps up audits and enforcement actions against health plan claims and appeals, every ERISA self-insured health plan sponsor or fiduciary should keep in mind that they are required to monitor TPA/ASOs successful overpayment recoveries and managed care savings, in order to determine whether:

  • any of the billions of dollars of successful TPA/ASO overpayment recoupments and offsets nationwide each year are ERISA plan assets;
  • all TPA/ASOs must refund all ERISA plan assets as ERISA prohibits all self-dealings;
  • all self-insured plan administrators are liable for fiduciary breach in failing to safeguard or recover plan assets.

Case Info: Lutz Surgical Partners, PLLC, et al. vs Aetna, Inc., et al., Case No.: 3:15-cv-02595, (BRM) (TJB) Document #: 202, Filed: 06/21/21, in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

This landmark case, in conjunction with the relevant US Supreme Court Montanile decision, potentially rewards trillions of dollars in plan assets recovery for all self-insured ERISA plans nationwide, from cross plan overpayment recoupments and offsets done by plan TPAs. 

Aetna Conducted Cross-Plan Offsetting

Cross-plan offsetting refers to “the practice of not paying a benefit due under one plan in order to recover an amount believed to be owed to another plan because of that other plan’s overpayment.”

According to the court records, “A typical cross-plan offsetting proceeds as follows. “[O]ut-of-network providers . . . provided services to . . . a patient who was insured under a Plan A administered by” a plan administrator…The “providers submitted claims to” the plan administrator and “received payment for those claims from the Plan A.”…The providers “were later informed by [the plan administrator] that they had been paid too much,” but the providers “refused to return the alleged overpayment.”…The plan administrator “responded by recouping the disputed overpayment through cross-plan offsetting.”…“In other words, when [the plan administrator] learned that [the providers] had submitted a subsequent claim regarding . . . a different patient who was insured under . . . a Plan B,” the plan administrator “did not pay for those claims by transferring money to” the providers….“Instead, [the plan administrator] purported to pay for those claims by cancelling debt that [the providers] allegedly owed to the Plan A.”

Aetna’s Cross-Plan Offsetting Is Unlawful

According to the decision, “Finally, even if Plan A, Plan B, the PGA, and the NRA permit cross-plan offsetting, they cannot circumvent ERISA requirements. Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, 573 U.S. 409, 422 (2014)) (quoting Cent. States, Se. & Sw. Areas Pension Fund, 472 U.S. 559, 568 (1985)) (“[T]rust documents cannot excuse trustees from their duties under ERISA.”); see also In re SunTrust Banks, Inc. ERISA Litig., 749 F. Supp. 2d 1365, 1374 n.11 (N.D. Ga. 2010) (quoting Kuper v. Iovenko, 66 F.3d 1447, 1457 (6th Cir. 1995)) (“[A] fiduciary may only follow plan terms to the extent that the terms are consistent with ERISA.”); Williams v. Rohm & Haas Pension Plan, 497 F.3d 710, 714 (7th Cir. 2007) (“The [p]lan cannot avoid that which is dictated by the terms of ERISA.”); La Barbera v. J.D. Collyer Equip. Corp., 337 F.3d 132, 136 (2d Cir. 2003) (“ERISA of course trumps the collective bargaining and [t]rust agreements in the case of a conflict.”). In conclusion, Aetna’s cross-plan offsetting is prohibited by ERISA.”

ERISA Overrides Aetna’s State Law Justifications for its Cross-Plan Offsetting

The court also ruled that ERISA overrides Aetna’s state law justifications for its cross-plan offsetting. According to the court records, Aetna’s state law counterclaims were also pre-empted by ERISA. Aetna requested a motion to set-off, which allows entities that owe each other money to apply their mutual debts against each other. However the court denied Aetna’s request reasoning “Aetna has not yet established the existence of mutual debts between the parties, which precludes granting a motion to setoff at this stage.”

Finally, the court declined Aetna’s request to construe Aetna’s counterclaims as ERISA claims, reasoning, “Although legal claims can be pled in the alternative, a party cannot use summary judgment briefing as a way to inject new legal theories into a case…Here, Aetna’s proposal to recast its state law counterclaims as ERISA ones is essentially a request to introduce new legal theories or claims, which is improper at this stage.”

Over the past decade, Avym has closely followed decisions from the Supreme Court as well as federal appeals courts on ERISA prohibited self-dealing against ERISA plan TPA’s for managed care savings. These new ERISA embezzlement cases are just the initial impact of the court’s Hi-Lex decisions.

This lawsuit, in particular, should serve as a warning and wake up call for all Plan Administrators to continually monitor their TPAs.

This monitoring should be done in accordance with the Plan Administrator’s statutory fiduciary duties and to discharge its duties with respect to a plan solely in the interest of the participants for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to them.

Avym Corp. has been at the forefront and advocated for ERISA plan assets audit and embezzlement recovery education and consulting. Now with the Supreme Court’s guidance on ERISA anti-fraud protection, we are ready to assist all self-insured plans recover billions of dollars on behalf of hard-working Americans. To find out more about Avym Corporation’s Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Specialist (FOR) and Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Contractor (FORC) programs click here.

UHC “Overpayment” Offset Practice Dealt Deathblow-ERISA Court Rules Cross-Plan Offset Constitutes “Grave Conflict Of Interest”

In Landmark Class Action Case, a Federal Judge would shut down United HealthCare’s “cross-plan offsetting” practice as a “troubling use of plan assets”, ruling the industry standard practice of “Cross‐plan offsetting creates a substantial and ongoing conflict of interest” for all claims administrators who “simultaneously administer both self‐insured and fully insured plans.” The court also called into question United’s practice of reaching “into the pockets of the sponsors of self‐insured plans” and putting that money “in United’s pocket”.

In an extraordinary decision, US District Judge Patrick J. Schultz has effectively barred cross-plan offsets. The judge weighed in on two very important questions: First, whether UHC acted “reasonably” in interpreting its client’s plans to permit cross‐plan offsetting; and whether the practice complies with the “fiduciary duties imposed by ERISA”. The court offered an answer to both issues while providing very clear guidance for Plans, claims administrators, medical providers and patients.

As we have written about many times before, the No. 1 health care claims denial in the country is “overpayment” recoupments through “Cross-Plan Offsets”; correspondingly, the No.1 hidden cost for Self-Insured health plans, is “Overpayment” recoupment through “Cross-Plan Offsets” and subsequent embezzlement of plan assets. With the new legal guidance this landmark case provides, will self-insured plan sponsors, like AT&T and Gap Inc. be held accountable to allowing United to engage in such ERISA violations such as embezzlement, self-dealing and breach of fiduciary duty?  

The court case info: Peterson DC et al v. UnitedHealth Group Inc. et al, U.S. District Court U.S. District of Minnesota (DMN), Civil Docket For Case #: 0:14-cv-02101-PJS-BRT, Filed 06/23/14

In this class-action, originally filed in 2014, healthcare providers alleged ERISA violations by UnitedHealthcare Group for withholding and offsetting newly adjudicated claim payments from one patient to satisfy an alleged overpayment in the past, from separate, unidentified patients in complete violation of ERISA, and even worse, by misrepresenting to the patients and the plan sponsors on patient EOB’s “payment made to provider”, when in truth and in fact no such payment was ever made to the providers, according to the Court Complaint.

In answering the first question, Judge Schultz considered whether the language in UHC’s client health plans at issue in the case, identified as 46 Plan Bs, authorized UHC to engage in the offsetting practice known as “Cross-Plan Offsets”. According to the court they did not: “the Court finds that United’s interpretation is unreasonable. The plans themselves do not authorize cross‐plan offsetting. To the contrary, most of the plans contain specific overpayment and recovery language that would be rendered meaningless if United was authorized by the generic clauses that it relies upon to engage in cross‐plan offsetting.”

The court went on to clarify: “Every one of the overpayment provisions is triggered only when the plan itself makes an overpayment…In other words, each Plan B authorizes the recovery of overpayments made by the Plan B.

“None of the overpayment…provisions contain any language allowing other plans to recover their overpayments from the plan. “In other words, not one Plan B authorizes recovery of an overpayment made by a Plan A.”, according to the court order.

Remarkably, the judge chided UHC for or creating its cross-plan offsetting process for its own benefit and without examining the language of the plans. The judge specifically drew attention to this point, according to the court order: “It should be noted, that in looking carefully at the language of the plans…the Court is doing something that United itself did not do before implementing cross-plan offsetting…”

“Only after getting sued did United hunt through the plans for any language that might provide a post hoc justification for its conduct…United admits that it was not able to find a single provision of a single plan that explicitly authorizes cross-plan offsetting.”, according to court records.

The judge also questioned whether UHC ever disclosed their intention to engage in “cross-plan offsets” or the likely conflict of interest to its plan clients: “It appears, however, that disclosures concerning United’s system of cross-plan offsetting are mostly or entirely handled by United’s banking team during what appear to be fairly technical explanations for banking, account-setup and account-funding processes. It also appears that such disclosures mostly occur orally and on a somewhat ad hoc basis”.

UHC argued that it did disclose its cross-plan offset provisions to its clients’ “benefits and finance and treasury folks”, to which the court responded “it is not clear whether those individuals have authority to make plan-wide fiduciary decisions, nor is it clear whether these disclosures are made before or after a plan sponsor decides to become a United Client.”

Regarding the second question, whether the practice of cross-plan offsetting violates ERISA, the judge, while weighing possible conflicts of interest in violation of ERISA, went so far as to mention the fact that UHC lined its own pockets with self-insured plan assets: “the money that reimburses United for its alleged overpayment comes out of the plan sponsors’ pockets. Several internal United documents emphasize this point and gush about how cross-plan offsetting will allow United to take money for itself out of the pockets of the self-insured plans…”

“In other words, every one of the cross‐plan offsets at issue in this litigation put money in United’s pocket, and most of that money came out of the pockets of the sponsors of self‐insured plans.” according to the court records.

The court went into great detail regarding UHC’s conflict and possible prohibited transaction and breach of fiduciary duty: “In light of this case law and the strict fiduciary duties imposed by ERISA, cross-plan offsetting is, to put it mildly, a troubling use of plan assets—one that is plainly in tension with “the substantive or procedural requirements of the ERISA statute . . . In stark terms, cross‐plan offsetting involves using assets from one plan to satisfy debt allegedly owed to a separate plan—a practice that raises obvious concerns under §§ 1104 and 1106. These concerns are particularly acute in this case, in which every offset that United orchestrated did not just benefit a different, unrelated plan, but benefited United itself.”

“Cross‐plan offsetting creates a substantial and ongoing conflict of interest for claims administrators who, like United, simultaneously administer both self‐insured and fully insured plans…”, according to court records.

The judge, after examining the facts of the case, shed light on an enormous incentive for UHC: “As the single biggest payor of claims, United’s personal stake in cross‐plan offsetting dwarfs that of any self‐insured plan. [United] in this circumstance has every incentive to be aggressive about looking for overpayments from its own fully insured plans (which overpayments can be recovered from self‐insured plans) and less aggressive about looking for overpayments from self‐insured plans (which overpayments might be recovered from fully insured plans).”

“And indeed, this incentive is reflected in United’s internal documents, which enthusiastically describe how cross‐plan offsetting will permit United to reach into the pockets of the sponsors of self‐insured plans to recover the overpayments that United makes in connection with fully insured plans.” (emphasis added) 

The court further clarifies its reasoning and confirms: “It is also undoubtedly true, as United is reluctant to acknowledge, that cross-pan offsetting can harm plan participants” and “It is not fairly debatable, however, that the type of cross‐plan offsetting challenged in this case—that is, cross-plan offsetting engaged in by an administrator who insures some (but not all) of the plans—presents a grave conflict of interest.”

Ultimately, the court concludes, “United labors under a continuing conflict of interest in administering the cross‐plan offset system because United fully insures some but not all of the plans. More importantly, the fact remains that cross‐plan offsetting is in tension with ERISA’s fiduciary rules, is not provided for in the plans, and is at odds with the specific offset language contained in most of the plans. As a result, United did not act reasonably in interpreting the Plan [documents] that are at issue in this case to permit cross‐plan offsetting. The Court therefore grants plaintiffs’ motions for partial summary judgment and denies United’s motions for full summary judgment.”

In ruling against UHC on almost every argument, the judge certified the case for immediate appeal, acknowledging that this was a landscape changing and “exceptional case,” and taking into consideration that United, as the nation’s largest insurer will have to “undertake the extremely expensive and disruptive process if unwinding its cross-plan offsetting practice.”

“This order resolves a controlling and dispositive question of law: whether United acted reasonably in interpreting the plans to permit cross‐plan offsetting.”

“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

  1. Defendants’ motions for summary judgment are DENIED.
  2. Plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment on Phase I issues are GRANTED.”

Based on the fact that ‘cross-plan offsetting” is pervasive throughout the health care industry, this legal guidance will undoubtedly have tremendous ramifications on all Plans, TPAs, medical providers and patients. Medical providers must be proactive and adopt compliant practices and policies. Health plans must also be proactive in validating that plan assets get returned to their plan, and not applied to cover shortfalls in another plan.

Avym Corp. has advocated for ERISA plan assets audit and embezzlement recovery education and consulting. With new Supreme Court guidance on ERISA anti-fraud protection, we are ready to assist all self-insured plans recover billions of dollars of self-insured plan assets, on behalf of hard-working Americans. To find out more about Avym Corporation’s Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Specialist (FOR) and Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Contractor (FORC) programs contact us.

United HealthCare Administered ERISA Plan Sued for Embezzlement in Medical Claims Overpayment Offset Dispute

On May 10, 2016, in the southern district of Texas Federal Court, United HealthCare administered self-insured ERISA plan, GAP Inc. and its Plan Administrators, Cynthia Radovich and Lesley Dale, were sued for alleged ERISA plan assets “self-dealing and embezzlement”, deceptively concealed through an “illegitimate recoupment scheme that financially rewards United for wrongfully recouping valid benefits”.

As we have written about before and as part of a growing trend, another self-insured health plan is being sued for alleged embezzlement and self-dealing. United HealthCare administered self-insured ERISA plan, GAP Inc. and plan administrators, Cynthia Radovich and Lesley Dale, were sued by out-of-network (OON) hospital, Redoak Hospital, LLC, for alleged ERISA plan assets “Self-dealing and embezzlement”, based on its co fiduciary, United HealthCare’s (UHC) alleged cross plan overpayment offset practices, according to court documents.

This extraordinary and multifaceted ERISA lawsuit will impact all ERISA self-insured plans, employer sponsored plan employees, and healthcare providers, resulting in uncertainties for every healthcare claim. Overpayment refund demands and cross-plan offset practices are the nation’s most insidious claim denials and may ultimately determine the fate of the entire U.S. ERISA healthcare system. 

In the healthcare provider arena the No. 1 health care claim denial in the country today is the overpayment recoupment and claims-offset.  Correspondingly, for self-insured health plans, the No. 1 hidden cost is overpayment recoupment and plan assets embezzlement.

The Court Case Info: Redoak Hospital, LLC v. Gap Inc., Gap Inc. Health and Life Insurance Plan, Cynthia Radovich, and Lesley Dale,  in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, Case 4:16-cv-01303, Filed on 05/10/16.

According to court documents, Redoak Hospital Plaintiff filed a DOL EBSA Complaint on the alleged overpayment offset by the Defendants Plan, Gap, Inc, and the plan’s co-fiduciary, UHC, prior to filling this ERISA lawsuit, alleging:

 “This dispute arises out of Defendants’ ongoing and systematic ERISA violations consisting of an elaborate scheme to abstract, withhold, embezzle and convert self-insured Plan Assets that were approved and allegedly paid to Plaintiff for Plaintiff’s claim, to purportedly, but impermissibly, satisfy a falsely alleged ―overpayment‖ for another stranger claim, especially when the stranger is a plan beneficiary of a fully-insured plan that is insured by the Plan’s co-fiduciary, United Healthcare (hereinafter, ―United‖). Defendants knew or should have known that the Plan’s overpayment recovery provisions cannot be triggered until there is an allegation of overpayment by the Plan to the Plan Beneficiary subject to this action, and that converting the Plan Assets by a fiduciary or co-fiduciary of the Plan, in this case United, to the use of another and his own use, to ultimately pay to United’s own account is absolutely prohibited under ERISA statutes. Regardless, Defendants and United recklessly conspired, orchestrated and authorized to this kind of self-dealing and embezzlement even while being under active investigation by the Department of Labor and after repeated detailed alerts and notices from Plaintiff regarding the aforementioned.” according to the Court Documents.

In the Compliant, the Plaintiff makes the following:

 “COUNTS AGAINST DEFENDANTS:

The Plaintiff, as a statutory defined Claimant with a valid and unchallenged Assignment of Benefits, is entitled to ERISA rights ―to bring a civil action under section 502(a) of the Act following an adverse benefit determination on review‖ after Plaintiff has legally and administratively exhausted any and all appeal remedies.14 Therefore the Plaintiff is entitled to pursue Benefit claims: (i) to recover benefits due for already approved claims but abstracted and converted by the Defendants’ co-fiduciary, United; (ii) breach of fiduciary duty claims under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(2) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 664, 29 U.S.C. § §1104, §1105, §1106(b)(1)(d); injunctive relief to enjoin the Defendants from engaging in prohibited transaction 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3); and (iii) injunctive relief to permanently remove the Defendants Cynthia Radovich and Lesley Dale from serving as fiduciaries to the Plan permanently under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3).” according to the Court Documents.

Avym Corp. announces a timely new ERISA Compliance Forum on May 17, 2016. At this new ERISA Compliance Forum, through Pittsburgh Business Group on Health (PBGH) Legislative Updates Forum, we will brainstorm, assess and demystify the potential impact of this unprecedented ERISA lawsuit for all interested parties.  PBGH is “The only employer-led, non-profit coalition of large, mid-size, and small organization representing various business segments including private and public employers, government and academia.”

According to industry estimates, the total dollar amount at issue nationwide is tremendous. Successful industry overpayment recoveries have reached into the billions of dollars nationwide over the past 5 to 7 years and involve many large carriers.  Thus recoupment through offsetting, when used as an anti-fraud initiative, has become an increasingly popular source of revenue for some insurers. While there is a need for anti-fraud initiatives in healthcare today, it is critical that every health plan comply with all applicable federal laws, ERISA and PPACA claims regulations, as well as statutory fiduciary duties. Insurers and Health Plans must comply with all applicable federal laws, ERISA and PPACA claims regulations, as well as statutory fiduciary duties before recouping one single dollar.

Over the past 6 years, Avym has closely followed decisions from the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts on ERISA prohibited self-dealing against ERISA plan TPA’s for managed care savings.

This latest lawsuit against a self-insured plan and plan administrators, for alleged plan assets embezzlement by the ERISA plan’s third party claim administrator (TPA), comes less than 6 months after a Cigna administered self-insured plan was sued in federal court for similar violations.

The Court Case info: True View Surgery Center One L.P., v.Chicago Bridge And Iron Medical Plan, Chicago Bridge And Iron Company, And Dennis Fox, Case #: 3:15-CV-00310, filed on Oct. 29, 2015, in the United States District Court For The Southern District of Texas.

In the Oct 29, 2015 lawsuit filed by OON provider True View Surgery Center, against the Cigna administered ERISA plan, the Plaintiff alleged in part:

“Specifically, in spite of the glaring conflict of interest and inherent breach of fiduciary duties, Defendants agreed to an unlawful compensation structure that financially rewards Cigna for wrongfully denying and underpaying benefits claims. Under this backdrop, together Defendants and Cigna concocted an intricate scheme to transfer and embezzle plan funds. Transfers are first concealed by processing out-of-network claims under a fabricated Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) “contractual obligation,” even though Defendants and Cigna are fully aware that no such contract exists. Then, Defendants and Cigna knowingly implemented a system to willfully and wrongfully refuse payments to the out-of-network provider under a sham “fee-forgiveness” protocol. As a result of the wrongful claims denials, the transferred plan funds are ultimately misappropriated by Cigna, who then fraudulently pays itself with the plan funds, falsely declaring the embezzled funds as compensation generated through managed care and out-of-network cost containment “savings,” when in truth the claims were never paid and the plan beneficiaries were left exposed to personal liability for their unpaid medical bills.”

On Oct 21, 2015, in a separate but similar lawsuit filed by an ERISA plan against a separate ERISA plan TPA, the Plaintiff alleged in part:

“MagnaCare represented to Plaintiffs in a written contract between the parties that providers of diagnostic laboratory and ancillary services had “accepted” a “fee schedule” which included a “management fee” for MagnaCare. In fact, the providers had never “accepted’ a fee schedule containing a “management foe” for MagnaCare. Rather, the providers had agreed to a fee schedule, which was a fraction of the amounts collected by MagnaCare from Plaintiffs. MagnaCare – without disclosure to Plaintiffs or the providers – simply misappropriated the difference between what Plaintiffs paid MagnaCare and what MagnaCare negotiated to pay the providers.” 

Court case info: UNITED TEAMSTER FUND, et al v. Magnacare Administrative Services, LLC et al, Case 1:13-CV-06062-WHP-FM, First Amended Complaint (FAC), filed on Oct. 29, 2015, original Complaint, filed on august 27, 2013,  in United States District Court Southern District Of New York.

These lawsuits come on the heels of the Oct. 20, 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny all appeals on a BCBSM’s $6.1 million fraud judgment for a self-insured ERISA plan by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Six Circuit, upholding the decision by the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

On May 14, 2014, the federal appeals court (Sixth Cir. 2014) upheld the district court’s $6.1 million decision for Hi-Lex, a self-insured ERISA plan, against BCBSM for violating ERISA in prohibited transactions and fiduciary fraud, according to court documents.

Hi-Lex Controls, Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, (SC Case #. 14-168, 6th Cir. Case #: 13-1773, 13-1859).

These cases together with the pending ERISA cases listed below, offer insight into the healthcare industry’s prevalent overpayment offset wars:  

Peterson, D.C. et al v. UnitedHealth Group Inc. et al, U.S. District Court, U.S. District of Minnesota (DMN) CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 0:14-cv-02101-PJS-BRT,

Riverview Health Institute v. UnitedHealth Group Inc. et al, U.S. District Court, U.S. District of Minnesota (DMN), CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 0:15-cv-03064-PJS-BRT

These new ERISA embezzlement cases are part of a growing trend consistent with the court’s Hi-Lex decisions. This lawsuit in particular should serve as a warning and wake up call for all Plan Administrators to continually monitor their TPAs in accordance with the Plan Administrator’s statutory fiduciary duties and to discharge its duties with respect to a plan solely in the interest of the participants for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to them.

For over 6 years, Avym Corp. has advocated for ERISA plan assets audit and embezzlement recovery education and consulting. With new Supreme Court guidance on ERISA anti-fraud protection, we are ready to assist all self-insured plans recover billions of dollars of self-insured plan assets, on behalf of hard-working Americans. To find out more about Avym Corporation’s Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Specialist (FOR) and Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Contractor (FORC) programs click here.

Aetna Class Action-Aetna Sued for Overpayment Offsets in Violation of ERISA and for “Illegal Self Help” Designed to Circumvent ERISA

On October 24, 2014, Aetna was slapped with a new provider class-action lawsuit alleging ERISA violations and fraud for its overpayment recoupment and offset practice. The suit also alleges Aetna engaged in withholding or offsetting new payments from providers as part of an “enterprise level” scheme of “illegally” withholding payments for covered services.

Case Info: MAYER-et-al-v.-AETNA-INC.-et-al U.S. District Court for the Central District of CA Civil Docket For Case #: 2:14-cv-08266, Filed 10/24/14.

This class action comes on the heels of another overpayment provider class action lawsuit filed against United Healthcare (UHC) on June 23, 2014. In that case, the overpayment recoupment and offset practices of UHC are alleged to be in violation of ERISA and fiduciary fraud. Avym’s support services were instrumental in allowing multiple plaintiffs the chance to fight back.

Overpayment offset and recoupments continue to be the Healthcare provider industry’s No. 1 claim denial as evidenced by UHC’s own admission that it had recovered $430 million worth of overpayments in 2011 alone. Correspondingly, for self-insured health plans, the No. 1 hidden cost is overpayment recoupment and possible plan assets embezzlement. In another recent case that intertwines ERISA violations and hidden fees, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by BCBSMI of a lower court’s ruling which awarded a self-insured ERISA health plan a $6.1 million fraud judgment. The immediate impact of all these cases could be billions of dollars for all self-insured ERISA health plans nationwide, as a result of the ASO/TPA industry’s potential recovery of a billion dollars in overpayment recoupments and anti-fraud campaigns over the past 10 years.

This Aetna case illustrates the need for all employer sponsored health plans to comply with federal ERISA regulations when making demands for overpayment refunds. Attempts to recoup or withhold monies from providers are and should be treated as any other claim denials.  Additionally, Providers need to level the playing field by ensuring they submit ERISA/PPACA compliant appeals which properly request due process and a full and fair review.

According to the lawsuit,

  • Aetna has been withholding or offsetting new payments in part or in whole from providers from one patient to satisfy another alleged overpayment in the past from other unidentified and completely separate patients in violation of ERISA;
  • Aetna then misleads patients and the plan sponsors as to payments made to the providers by claiming that a “payment” had been “issued” when in fact it was not paid;
  • Aetna has never complied with ERISA claims regulation when requesting alleged overpayments and offsetting new payments from other patients.

The putative class on behalf of all similarly situated providers is seeking for ERISA benefits payments due, injunctive and declaratory relief. The provider class action also alleges additional ERISA violations by Aetna for withholding and offsetting newly adjudicated claim payments from one patient to satisfy another alleged overpayment in the past from other unidentified patients which in some cases are members of a completely separate plan, in violation of ERISA.

The complaint also alleges that Aetna misled patients and the plan sponsors on patient EOB’s that indicated “payment” had been “issued”, when in truth and in fact no such payment was ever made to the providers, according to the Court Complaint.

In particular, the complaint alleged the following:

“Aetna is engaged in an enterprise-level scheme whereby it illegally withheld such payments. It did so in order to offset what it believes to be prior overpayments to Plaintiffs made by different Aetna Plans relating to services provided to different Aetna Insureds. It has done so without any legal authority under the Aetna Plan or otherwise, and leaves the Aetna Insureds financially responsible for unpaid bills for Covered Services that their respective Aetna Plans are obligated to pay”

The complaint goes on to allege that:

Instead of availing itself of lawful means of recovering such overpayments under ERISA, Aetna instead engages in illegal self-help designed to circumvent the ERISA regulatory regime. Neither the Aetna Insureds, their ONET providers, nor the language of the Aetna Plans granted Aetna the rights to recover alleged overpayments in this manner”.  The Plaintiffs also allege that Aetna “did not provide any of the informational items or appellate procedures mandated by the ERISA Claims Procedure.”

As more and more of these cases make their way through the courts, it is clear that the previously questionable or “legal gray area” of overpayment recoupment practices engaged in by many of the nation’s biggest insurance carriers, effectively trigger ERISA appeal rights.  Insurers and Health Plans will be forced to comply with all applicable federal laws, ERISA and PPACA claims regulations, as well as statutory fiduciary duties before recouping one single dollar. Providers or patients that face Aetna or any payor recoupments or offsets would do well to understand the implications of these lawsuits as well as their rights under ERISA.

Located in Los Angeles, CA, AVYM is a leading provider of services focusing entirely on the resolution of denied or disputed medical insurance claims by participating in the nation’s first ERISA PPACA Claims Appeals Certification program.  AVYM also offers free Webinars, basic and advanced educational seminars and on-site claims specialist certification programs for doctors, hospitals and commercial companies, as well as numerous pending national ERISA class action litigation support services.

UnitedHealthcare Class Action-UHC Sued for Overpayment Offsets in Violation of ERISA and for Misleading Patients and Plan Sponsors

On June 23, 2014, UnitedHealthcare was sued in a new provider class-action for its overpayment recoupment and offset practice, alleging ERISA violations and fraud. The new suit also alleges UHC engaged in withholding or offsetting new payments from providers while misinforming patients.

Overpayment offset and recoupments are Healthcare provider’s No. 1 denial; correspondingly, for self-insured health plans, the No. 1 hidden cost is overpayment recoupment and possible plan assets embezzlement. On June 23, 2014, UnitedHealthcare (UHC) was sued in a new provider class-action for its overpayment recoupment and offset practice for alleged ERISA violations and fiduciary fraud. The new ERISA class-action suit alleges:

  • UHC has been withholding or offsetting new payments in part or in whole from providers from one patient to satisfy another alleged overpayment in the past from other unidentified patients in violation of ERISA;
  • UHC then misleads patients and the plan sponsors as to payments made to the providers;
  • UHC has never complied with ERISA claims regulation when requesting alleged overpayments and offsetting new payments from other patients.

The new putative class on behalf of all similarly situated providers is seeking for ERISA benefits payments due, injunctive and declaratory relief, and ERISA notice and appeal rights.

“The No. 1 health care claim denial in the nation is payer overpayment recoupment and offset practice that does not comply with ERISA rules.  These offsets can go as far back as several years and affect all types of claims, potentially resulting in inevitable provider bankruptcy and subsequent patient bankruptcy”, according to Dr. Jin Zhou, president of ERISAclaim.com, a national expert on ERISA compliance and appeals.

The court case info: Peterson, D. C, et al v. UnitedHealth Group. et al, U.S. District Court U.S. District of Minnesota (DMN), Civil Docket For Case #: 0:14-cv-02101-PAM-SER, Filed 06/23/14.

Significantly, this ERISA putative provider class-action for the “Offset Class” was filed in the wake of and in accordance with a similar provider class-action filed recently in New Jersey for the “Recoupment Class”: Case Info: Premier Health Center, P.C., et al. v. UnitedHealth Group, et al., Case#: 2:11-cv-00425-ES-SCM, Filed 08/01/13, United States District Court for The District of New Jersey.

In last year’s court decision the court ruled against UHC in its overpayment recoupment practice:  “To be sure, as previously discussed, United’s recoupment procedures violate three specific ERISA regulations across the class.” according to the court document. “In 2011, United recovered approximately $430 million in overpayments to providers. 58% of the $430 million was recovered as a result of providers’ voluntarily sending a check to United, while 42% was recovered through offsets”, according to the court document. “However, they all violate ERISA in three respects. First, they fail to provide “[a] description of the plan’s review procedures and the time limits applicable to such procedures, including a statement of the claimant’s right to bring acivil action under section 502(a) of [ERISA] following an adverse benefit determination on review.” 29 C.F.R. § 2650.503-1(g)(1)(iv).25 Second, they fail to indicate that the provider, “upon request and free of charge, [will have] reasonable access to, and copies of, all documents, records, and other information relevant to the” overpayment determination. 29 C.F.R. §2650.503-1(h)(2)(ii). Third, they fail to “[p]rovide claimants at least 180 days following receipt of a notification of an adverse benefit determination within which to appeal the determination.” 29 C.F.R. § 2650.503-1(h)(3)(i).” according to the court document.

In the new UHC provider class-action, healthcare providers alleged additional ERISA violations by UnitedHhealthcare Group for withholding and offsetting newly adjudicated claim payments from one patient to satisfy another alleged overpayment in the past from other unidentified patients which in some cases are members of a completely separate plan, in violation of ERISA.

Additionally, the new lawsuit alleges that UHC misled patients and the plan sponsors on patient EOB’s that indicated “payment made to provider”, when in truth and in fact no such payment was ever made to the providers, according to the Court Complaint.

In particular, the plaintiff Lutz Surgical Partners alleged the following:

“For example, ……Instead, United identified a different United Insured covered by a different United Plan who had been treated by Lutz on December 16, 2012. According to the PEOB, United caused that United Plan to pay Lutz $19,460.00 for this treatment which was now characterized by United as the “ORIGINAL OVERPAYMENT AMOUNT.” The PEOB then explained that the entire amount owed to Lutz for the services provided to the June 12, 2013 patient ($2,700.00) was being unilaterally offset against the prior alleged overpayment relating to the December 16, 2012 patient ($19,460.00), with the added explanation that “THIS REPRESENTS PREVIOUS BENEFITS THAT WERE PAID IN ERROR.” United therefore reported that the “TOTAL PAID TO THE PROVIDER” for services rendered to the June 12, 2013 patient was $0.00. In the “REMARKS” section of the PEOB, United stated: “The amount payable for this Explanation of Benefits has been used to reduce an overpayment made on the given claim(s). Please adjust your patient account balance accordingly.” according to the court document.

As more and more of these cases make their way through the courts, it is clear that the questionable or “legal gray area” of overpayment recoupment practices engaged in by many of the nation’s biggest insurance carriers, effectively triggers ERISA appeal rights.  Insurers and Health Plans will be forced to comply with all applicable federal laws, ERISA and PPACA claims regulations, as well as statutory fiduciary duties before recouping one single dollar. Providers or patients that face UHC or any payor recoupments or offsets would do well to understand the implications of these lawsuits as well as their rights under ERISA.

For more information click here.

Highmark Recovers Hundreds of Million$$-How Much is Your Plan Getting Back?

Self-insured health plans nationwide should look to recover $30 to $45 billion in Plan Asset refunds from the past 10 years of successful plan assets TPA/ASO anti-fraud recoupments and managed care savings in both the public and private sector

As we have written before, ERISA as well as other federal and state regulations have continued to pave the way for providers and patients, however, these same regulations can also pave the way for self-insured employer plans as well.

As more and more industry experts and watchdogs begin to see the light, it is extremely critical for all self-insured health plans and TPAs to understand the multi-billion dollar impact TPA/ASO recoveries can have on all self-insured health plans, including state health plans.

Plans should seek to identify and recover any plan assets that have been removed from the plan trust account to pay benefits, but instead have been retained by the TPA as “hidden fees”

This includes alleged overpayments that have been recouped by the TPAs –and have not been disclosed, restored or refunded to the self-insured plan assets as required under federal statutes and fiduciary responsibilities.

On February 20, 2020, Highmark Inc. announced its Financial Investigations and Provider Review (FIPR) Department realized over $260 million in savings and recoveries related to fraud, waste and abuse in 2019. Additionally, Highmark has saved and recovered over $850 million over the past five years. Highmark Health, the parent company of Highmark Inc., recently reported $629 million in consolidated earnings through just the first two quarters of 2019.

The Highmark announcement comes a little over a month after the United States Department of Justice issued a press release announcing it had recovered $2.6 Billion from fraud and false claims in matters related to healthcare for fiscal year 2019.

In the healthcare provider arena the No. 1 health care claim denial in the country today is the overpayment recoupment and claims-offset.  Correspondingly, for self-insured health plans, the No. 1 hidden cost is overpayment recoupment and plan assets embezzlement. 

The immediate impact of the recent Highmark and Department of Justice announcements, coupled with a 2016 Supreme Court decision could be billions of dollars for self-insured health plans nationwide, as a result of the TPA industry’s potential recovery of billions of dollars in overpayment recoupments and anti-fraud campaigns over the past 10 years.

All self-insured health plans and TPAs should monitor claims data in light of these recent announcements, in view of the fact that almost every TPA for self-insured health plans has engaged in successful overpayment recoupment and offsetting from healthcare providers in today’s multibillion-dollar overpayment recovery and offset industry.

Failure to safeguard plan assets is definitely a fiduciary breach under ERISA, and now the Supreme Court, the United States Department of Justice and Highmark Inc. have given us a legal and practical formula for plan assets recovery, an accessible and legitimate resolution to today’s U.S. healthcare crisis.

As the DOL ramps up audits and enforcement actions in health plan claims and appeals, every self-insured health plan sponsor or fiduciary should keep in mind that they are required to monitor TPA/ASOs successful overpayment recoveries and managed care savings, in order to determine whether:

any of the billions of dollars of successful TPA/ASO overpayment recoupments and offsets nationwide each year are ERISA plan assets

all TPA/ASOs must refund all ERISA plan assets as ERISA prohibits all self-dealing

all self-insured plan administrators are liable for fiduciary breach in failing to safeguard or recover plan assets

The 2016 Supreme Court Montanile decision makes it perfectly clear, any alleged overpayment/lien for a claim in a fully-insured plan cannot attach to a different, self-insured plan fund or claims payment. It’s a basic principle of ERISA that a TPA for a self-insured plan is absolutely barred from converting claims payment/plan assets from the self-insured plan to pay for an alleged overpayment/lien and retain all recovery, for the TPAs own fully-insured account. As alleged in other federal courts, this can be viewed as self-dealing/embezzlement.

The only question now is whether self-insured plan fiduciaries will take immediate corrective actions to safeguard plan assets or wait till the DOL knocks on their door with an audit alert.

In combination with Highmark’s announcement, Avym Corporation offers advanced ERISA Embezzlement Recovery Programs in preparation of the forth-coming multi-billion dollar impact on self-insured health plans nationwide.  Specifically the advanced programs will examine the following issues: (1) determine if any TPA overpayment recoupments and offsets, which are in the billions of dollars nationwide, are ERISA plan assets, (2) ensure all TPA’s properly refunded ERISA plan assets as ERISA prohibits all self-dealings, (3) communicate and clarify self-insured plan administrator’s potential liability for fiduciary breach in failing to safeguard or recover plan assets.

These groundbreaking TPA/ASO auditing programs are unique and unlike any other traditional self-insured health plan overpayment auditing programs and are designed to identify and recover any plan assets that have been removed from the plan trust account to pay benefits, but instead have been retained by the TPA as “hidden fees”, including alleged overpayments that have been recouped by the TPAs –and have not been disclosed, restored or refunded to the ERISA self-insured plan assets as required under federal statutes and fiduciary responsibilities.

To learn more about Avym’s ERISA Fiduciary TPA Auditing & Plan Assets Recovery Programs or to contact us about educational programs please click HERE.

Federal Appeals Court Sides with Out-Of-Network Doctors Against UnitedHealth

On January 15, 2019, in what turned out to be a belated Christmas gift for patients, out-of-network medical providers and self-insured health plans, the 8th Circuit Federal Appeals Court stood with out-of-network medical providers, ruling they have standing to sue opposing UnitedHealth’s “cross-plan offsets”- by affirming the district court and opining:

Because United’s interpretation of the plan documents is not reasonable, we affirm the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”

This bellwether appellate court decision undisputedly strikes a death blow to the collective, industry standard, practice of “cross-plan offsetting” and has national implications for patients, medical providers and self-insured health plans.  As we have written about before, the No. 1 health care claims denial in the country is “overpayment” recoupments through “Cross-Plan Offsets”; correspondingly, the No.1 hidden cost for Self-Insured health plans, is “Overpayment” recoupment through “Cross-Plan Offsets” and subsequent embezzlement of plan assets as UnitedHealth Group continues to see record revenues and earnings year after year.

With the new legal guidance this landmark case provides, self-insured plan sponsors, like AT&T and Gap Inc. may be held accountable for allowing United to engage in likely ERISA violations such as embezzlement, conversion, self-dealing and breach of fiduciary duty.

According to industry estimates, the total dollar amount at issue nationwide could be as high as 1/3 of total claim expenditures annually. Successful industry overpayment recoveries have reached into the trillions of dollars nationwide over the past decade and involve many large carriers as well as many of the nation’s biggest self-insured health plans such as Apple, JP Morgan Chase and Amazon.  Thus recoupment through offsetting, when used as an anti-fraud initiative, has become an increasingly popular source of revenue for many of the nation’s largest insurers. While there is a need for anti-fraud initiatives in healthcare today, it is critical that every health plan and claims administrator comply with all applicable federal laws, ERISA and PPACA claims regulations, as well as statutory fiduciary duties.

This 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, along with the recent Supreme Court decision in Montanile, should act as a wake-up call to all self-insured health plans for potential rewards in the trillions of dollars in plan assets recovery for all self-insured ERISA plans nationwide, from cross plan overpayment recoupments and offsets done by all plan TPAs.

Insurers and Health Plans must comply with all applicable federal laws, ERISA and PPACA claims regulations, as well as statutory fiduciary duties before recouping one single dollar.

In affirming the district court’s ruling, the 8th Circuit rejected United’s argument that Dr Peterson lacked authority to sue as an authorized representative of his patients.  The appellate court also affirmed the district court’s ruling regarding offsets, where all of the plan documents that United cited explicitly authorized same-plan offsetting; and not one of those plans authorized cross-plan offsetting.

The appeals court further posited:

To adopt United’s argument that the plan language granting it broad authority to administer the plan is sufficient to authorize cross-plan offsetting would be akin to adopting a rule that anything not forbidden by the plan is permissible.”

According to court records, “United’s assertion that it has the authority to engage in cross-plan offsetting can hardly be called an interpretation because it has virtually no basis in the text of the plan documents.

The appeals court also maintained, that regardless of whether cross plan offsetting violates ERISA, it is at the very least, a questionable practice. Taking into consideration the fact that there is no plan language authorizing cross-plan offsetting, the appeals curt ultimately concluded that United’s interpretation is not reasonable.

As we have mentioned many times before, all ERISA health plans, medical providers and patients must educate themselves in order to understand the facts of these cases. Health plans must be proactive in ensuring benefits are adjudicated and ultimately paid solely based on the interest of participants and beneficiaries and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits and paying plan expenses. Medical providers must be also proactive and adopt compliant practices and policies. Patients must understand their benefits plans and their rights as allowed under ERISA.

Avym Corp. has advocated for ERISA plan assets audit and embezzlement recovery education and consulting. With new Supreme Court guidance on ERISA anti-fraud protection, we are ready to assist all self-insured plans recover billions of dollars of self-insured plan assets, on behalf of hard-working Americans. To find out more about Avym Corporation’s Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Specialist (FOR) and Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Contractor (FORC) programs contact us.

Blue Cross Blue Shield IL Sued for Fraud, Robbing Chicago Taxpayers

Health Care Service Corp, dba Blue Cross Blue Shield IL, has been sued for fraud on behalf of the City of Chicago and its taxpayers, for inflating claim charges in order to skim taxpayer dollars.

As we have previously written, recent cases disputing “cross-plan offsetting” and improper cost containment activities have begun to see the light of day. While many of these cases involve private sector commercial health plans, the public sector is not immune to these questionable business practices. As more and more of these cases make their way through the courts, all self-insured health plan administrators, including public or municipal plans, charged with properly monitoring and safeguarding plan assets should do so, independent of their TPA’s own reporting. 

According to its website, Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company (HCSC) is the largest customer-owned health insurer in the United States and fourth largest overall, operating through health insurance Plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The group benefits from its well-established market presence and leading overall market share in each of the five states in which it operates. With 8.1 million members, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) is the largest health insurance company in the state of Illinois. The insurer administers health plans for the City of Chicago employees.

The lawsuit was brought by Kathleen Harper, on behalf of the City of Chicago and its taxpayers, and alleges BCBSIL inflates medical provider charges then submits the inflated charges to the City of Chicago and keeps the difference between what it collects from the City’s reimbursement and what it actually pays to medical providers. According to the amended complaint, filed on October 9, 2018:

“These representations were not true or accurate. They were in an inflated amount and rather than reflecting the actual amount HCSC paid its providers…HCSC admits that the amount HCSC bills and receives from the governmental entities ostensibly as reimbursement for payments it has made to providers on behalf of these self-insured governmental entities is substantially less than it actually pays these providers.

The lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages and a  “full and complete accounting of said payments and receipts for the last ten years of any and all additional payments, ‘discounts’ or other sums HCSC has kept “for its own benefit” taken from the public funds taken by HCSC from one or more of the local government entities who have hired it to administer their self-insured health care plans


Other Blue Cross Blue Shield entities have faced similar problems before for this kind of activity. Recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan was hit with a flurry of lawsuits, for skimming unauthorized fees, from their self insured health plan clients. The lawsuits, filed between Aug. 9 and 11 2017 in federal court in Michigan, accuse Blue Cross of charging hidden and unauthorized fees to the employers’ health plan assets as a means of improving its financial position without alienating customers. The lawsuits build from a 2014 appeals court decision where Blue Cross was found liable for this conduct under ERISA and upholding a $6 million judgment against the insurer.

Since that 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, more than 200 ERISA cases have accused Blue Cross of charging hidden health plan fees. The employers suing Blue Cross include a car dealer, a plastics manufacturer, an auto parts maker, and a college, among others.

Other recent cases illustrate the pervasiveness of these questionable practices. In one particularly egregious case, the Department of Labor sued TPA Magnacare, allegedly for charging fees that were not disclosed to its ERISA plan clients. According to court records, the plans paid MagnaCare the “full amount, yet MagnaCare remitted the lower charges to the providers and retained the undisclosed markup” 


In this case, the complaint alleges the business model being used by BCBSIL for the City of Chicago benefit plan constitutes fraud:

“The misrepresentations described above as well as this scheme itself, one that HCSC has admitted in public is its “business model” and allowing it to profit from this scheme constitutes fraud under the Common Law of the State of Illinois”

Astonishingly, the complaint alleges that BCBSIL intentionally prohibits the City of Chicago or any of its taxpayers from seeing how much BCBSIL actually pays itself in fees or how much it contracts with providers:

“HCSC takes compensation for its services as the Third-Party Administrator under its contractual agreements with the City in an amount that is not disclosed in amount or in detail to the citizens of Chicago or to other members of the public. The amount HCSC takes for its services is also not limited to any amount on the face of its contract or available for the public in any manner whatsoever…HCSC does not disclose to the governmental entities or to the public that bears the ultimate burden of payments made by those entities the terms of these separate contracts with its providers, asserting before the Courts of Illinois that these contracts are private, privileged from disclosure or otherwise will not be made available for review by these local government entities or their taxpayers.

The lawsuit also alleges that the City of Chicago has been aware of the practice since 1985 but has not acted to correct or change the practice. The City of Chicago is not named in the suit.

Court case info: Harper, Kathleen v. Health Care Service Corp dba Blue Cross Blue Shield IL;Case No. 2018-L-010842; Filed on 10/09/2018 in the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois.


It’s a well-known fact from federal court documents and in healthcare industry news reports, that Billion$ of ERISA plan claims payments from self-insured plans may have been recouped or offset by self-insured plan TPA’s for the TPA’s fully-insured accounts. Additionally, many Billion$ more may have been similarly siphoned off based on “Fake PPO” discounts or  Phantom “Savings” fees. In the healthcare provider arena the No. 1 health care claim denial in the country today is the overpayment recoupment and claims-offset.  Correspondingly, for self-insured health plans, the No. 1 hidden cost is overpayment recoupment and plan assets embezzlement. 

As we have written about before, this practice of keeping the difference between amounts actually paid to the medical provider and the amounts that are removed from Plan trusts accounts, are estimated to be between 30% to 60% of all Plan claims expenditures. Simultaneously, as a result of this and other cases, including the Supreme Court’s decision to deny the BCBSM challenge of the Sixth Circuit Court decision, these same self-insured health plan administrators nationwide, should seek return of Billions in plan assets as a result of the TPA industry’s potential recovery of a billion dollars in overpayment recoupments and anti-fraud campaigns over the past 12 years.

Avym Corp. has advocated for ERISA plan assets audit and embezzlement recovery education and consulting. With new Supreme Court guidance on ERISA anti-fraud protection, we are ready to assist all self-insured plans recover billions of dollars of self-insured plan assets, on behalf of hard-working Americans. To find out more about Avym Corporation’s Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Specialist (FOR) and Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Contractor (FORC) programs contact us.

New Jersey State Looking for Answers in Health Plan Administration

Originally Published by By ROI-NJ, Anjalee Khemlani
Trenton | Apr 30, 2018 at 6:55 am : https://www.roi-nj.com/2018/04/30/healthcare/sarlo-in-letter-to-muoio-asks-n-j-to-look-into-details-of-health-insurance-contracts/

Budget and appropriations chair has questions about reimbursements, audits. State Sen. Paul Sarlo has asked Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio about the state heath plans’ third-party administrators. Reining In health care costs continues to be a challenge for many corporations and self-funded plans.

The story Isn’t any different for the state of New Jersey, the largest employer In the state. State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) is trying to find new solutions – and potentially hundreds
of millions of dollars In savings for the state – by addressing the Issue In a different way: Paying closer attention to how the state pays its contracted plan managers.

Last week, in a letter to state Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio, Sarlo asked the Department of the Treasury to determine if the health insurers are keeping any recovered funds, through savings from appeals, and if the plans are charging the state anything additional to what they pay the providers. 

Sarlo Letter to NJ Treasurer re TPA & Response

Sarlo also asked about surcharges related to out-of-state visits by plan members, and whether or not the state can cap those. 

In addition, he asked if the state is auditing Aetna and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the third-party administrators of the State Health Benefits Plan and School Employers’ Benefits Plan, which together cover more than 600,000 current and retired state employees and cost the state $6 billion in 2016 alone. 

The contract for both is set to expire in June, and a request for proposals with the same rules and requirements as the existing contract is currently out for bid. 

And, while the RFP adds to the timeliness of Sarlo’s request, it was not necessarily the impetus. 

Legislators began looking into the process in January after a New Jersey doctor, Rajnik “Raj” Raab, alerted them to a white paper he paid a California-based health care reimbursement recovery firm, AVYM, to produce. 

In the six-page white paper, the firm said New Jersey could save up to $1 billion annually: AVYM Transparency and Disclosure in Health Care Insurance

AVYM said such huge savings are possible because third-party administrators may not be paying back the state any savings they receive over time from claim appeals. 

Sarlo, the deputy majority leader who serves as the chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, told ROI-NJ how such a scenario could play out. 

“Here’s what we think happens,” he said. “A public worker in town XYZ cuts his hand, severs his hand, it’s a serious accident. He incurs $50,000 worth of bills. He petitions the fund representing the town … we pay. Now they (insurers) scrutinize and, over time, after arguing back and forth, reduce it to only $40,000.” And, if the reduced amount comes after the $50,000 has already been paid to the insurers, there is no way to check or prove the extra $10,000 is returned the state. Sarlo said there is no evidence that the state has ever received a refund from the insurers. 

### 

The contract between the state of New Jersey and Aetna and Horizon, which ROI-NJ obtained through an Open Public Records Act request, shows that the practice in question is prohibited, and that the state can audit the payments at any time. 

Representatives from Horizon and Aetna declined or did not return requests for comment on the issue, pointing instead to the agreements they have with the state.  

The contract with the insurers addresses potential overpayments. 

According to the contract, the state only reimburses the insurer after the payment is made.  

“The (insurer) will be reimbursed for claim checks and electronic fund transfers to providers that have cleared the (insurer’s) bank account by the (insurer) transmitting the total amount cleared via electronic mail or facsimile machine to the Commission by 11:00 a.m., EST daily, to determine the total amount that will be funded by wire transfer to the (insurer)’s designated bank on the same day. The transmission must include a breakdown between state and local amounts,” according to the contract. 

The contract also has a provision about any overpayments or refunds: 

“(Insurer) must disclose, fully account for, and remit, to the Commission any and all funds received by it as the result of a recovery of an overpayment or incorrect payment, prescription drug rebates and other pharmaceutical revenues, or subrogation of a claim or lien. Any discounted or negotiated rates or payment arrangements, any price adjustment, or refunds, and any retroactive or supplemental payments or credits negotiated with regard to covered services received by SHBP members must be remitted to the Commission. (Administrative) fees must take into consideration this provision,” according to the contract. 

And, if the state believes there is a problem with the payments, it can audit at any time. 

“(Insurers) must cooperate in the administration of routine audits performed by the Commission or its designee, on various aspects of the administration of the Plan, including but not limited to claims processing, medical management and enrollment data.  The various audits are designed to ensure (1) contract compliance, (2) that the interface system is working properly, (3) proper payment of claims where the individual should have coverage or (4) proper rejection of claims where the individual’s coverage has terminated, and (5) correct allocation of claims according to SHBP experience groups and (6) efficient and effective medical management,” the contract said. 

“An audit may be conducted if the Commission has a reasonable and good faith belief that a situation exists that will result in harm to the Plan. Audits must encompass records held by any subcontractor or related organization and held by any entity that is a member of the contractor group of companies.” 

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AVYM co-founders Mark Flores and Vincent Flores told ROI-NJ that the organization specializes in helping providers navigate claims and has seen a number of questionable practices since its inception in 1999. 

The white paper looked at claims from a Sparta school employee’s surgery and suggested that the provider was only paid 50 percent of the amount originally claimed, and the remainder was pocketed by the insurer. 

“Based on court cases (cited in the paper), it seems apparent TPAs can and do hide ‘undisclosed’ administrative compensation fees within medical claims payments. These undisclosed fees, which can account for 30 to 60 percent of a plan sponsor’s health claims expenditures, are usually siphoned into the TPA variance account through ‘retention reallocations’ and ‘cross plan overpayment’ offsets, among other techniques. Based on industry estimates and national claims processing standards, we believe the New Jersey State Health Benefits Plan and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Plan can realize a $1 billion (per) year reduction in expenditures by rigorous monitoring of TPA practices,” the AVYM report said. 

Mark Flores said that the actions of the TPA occur in a black box and are not visible to the state. “The big issue is that there’s no way to confirm whether or not the doctor is receiving the amount the (state) is paying the TPA for the claim,” he said. And that could save the state at least 30 percent of its current medical claims expenditures. 

Sarlo said one of the reasons he is pursuing the matter is the insurers’ response to transparency legislation. 

“When I had in my bill, when I had transparency disclosure to follow the money on these claims, which include TPAs out to providers, they opposed that bill,” Sarlo said. “Aetna, Horizon and all the health insurers opposed that bill.” 

Sarlo hopes the answers from Muoio will result in, at the very least, changing language for the new contract with the insurers. 

“Greater transparency on the operations of these third-party administrators will help identify cost savings that should be passed on to the state,” Sarlo said in a statement accompanying the letter. “There needs to be an accounting of the savings that insurance companies retain as fees and commissions.  

“We must ensure that the majority of these savings flow to the state as they should. Every year, doctors and other health care providers complain of decreasing reimbursements. At the same time, health care consumers complain of rising premiums and increasing costs. The obvious question that needs to be asked is: Where is all the money going?” 

Sarlo told ROI-NJ he realizes the answer won’t be a cure-all for the state, but it’s one worth getting. 

“I’m not saying this is going to save the budget at the end of the day,” he said. “But it’s worth a look. 

“This is serious dollars. The state of New Jersey is paying $37,000 per employee. If we can find savings in those health care plans, we must do it.” 

 

Self-Insured Health Plan TPA MagnaCare to Return $14.5 Million for ERISA Violations

Third Party Administrator, MagnaCare to return $14.5 million to Health Plan Clients after getting sued in federal court, alleging “MagnaCare breached its fiduciary duties and committed prohibited transactions, including dealing with plan assets in its own interest.

In a case we have written about before and as part of a greater, ongoing slew of self-insured health plans suing their third party administrators, MagnaCare, agreed to return $14.5 million to its health plan clients, as part of a settlement agreement with the US Department of Labor (DOL) – with possible additional payments of $4.5 million based upon business volume through 2019.  This agreement comes on the heels of the DOL lawsuit, filed in 2016, alleging multiple violations of ERISA, including committing prohibited transactions and acting in its own interest with plan assets, among other violations.

According to the DOL and court records:

MagnaCare charged fees that were not disclosed to its ERISA plan clients…The plans paid MagnaCare the full amount, yet MagnaCare remitted the lower charges to the providers and retained the undisclosed markup

This case is just the tip of the national healthcare crisis iceberg. Recent reports have indicated most employers, particularly large employers will continue to offer health insurance as a benefit, in spite of the fact self-insured health plans are spending more on health benefits. Additionally, while self-insuring is common among large employers, an increasing number of smaller employers are self-insuring as well. Based on these facts, and with an increasing number of patients forced into bankruptcy due to unpaid medical bills, employer plans, medical providers and patients need to understand the implication of this case and others like it.

It’s a well-known fact from federal court documents and in healthcare industry news reports, that Billion$ of ERISA plan claims payments from self-insured plans may have been recouped or offset by self-insured plan TPA’s for the TPA’s fully-insured accounts. Additionally, many Billion$ more may have been similarly siphoned off based on “Fake PPO” discounts or  Phantom “Savings” fees.

DOL Case info and copy of “Complaint”: Acosta v. MagnaCare Administrative Services, LLC and MagnaCare LLC Civil Action No.:  1:16-cv-07695-DAB

Copy of “Consent Order”: United States DOL v. Magnacare Administrative Servcies, LLC and Magnacare, LLC-Consent Order

The court documents also contain allegations that MagnaCare actually siphoned off money that was supposed to go towards the payment for medical claims:

At times relevant to this Complaint, MagnaCare acted in own interest when it kept the difference between the Plan Charges and the Provider Rates as additional compensation without disclosing the amounts to the Plans.”

According to court records, MagnaCare LLC, and MagnaCare Administrative Services, LLC (MagnaCare) is a third party administrator of health plans or TPA, and provides administrative and claim adjudication services as well as “Network Access” services which purportedly enables its clients to obtain healthcare from providers at discounted rates.  

This case was undoubtedly spurred on by a previous lawsuit against MagnaCare, by its own self-insured plan client. In that case, the plaintiff alleged:

“MagnaCare represented to Plaintiffs in a written contract between the parties that providers of diagnostic laboratory and ancillary services had “accepted” a “fee schedule” which included a “management fee” for MagnaCare. In fact, the providers had never “accepted’ a fee schedule containing a “management foe” for MagnaCare. Rather, the providers had agreed to a fee schedule, which was a fraction of the amounts collected by MagnaCare from Plaintiffs. MagnaCare – without disclosure to Plaintiffs or the providers – simply misappropriated the difference between what Plaintiffs paid MagnaCare and what MagnaCare negotiated to pay the providers.” 

Court case info: UNITED TEAMSTER FUND, et al v. Magnacare Administrative Services, LLC et al, Case 1:13-CV-06062-WHP-FM, First Amended Complaint (FAC), filed on Oct. 29, 2015, original Complaint, filed on august 27, 2013,  in United States District Court Southern District Of New York.

These lawsuits come on the heels of the Oct. 20, 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny all appeals on a BCBSM’s $6.1 million fraud judgment for a self-insured ERISA plan by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Six Circuit, upholding the decision by the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. On May 14, 2014, the federal appeals court (Sixth Cir. 2014) upheld the district court’s $6.1 million decision for Hi-Lexa self-insured ERISA plan, against BCBSM for violating ERISA in prohibited transactions and fiduciary fraud, according to court documents.

Hi-Lex Controls, Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan(SC Case #. 14-168, 6th Cir. Case #: 13-1773, 13-1859).

These cases together with the ERISA case listed below, offer insight into the healthcare industry’s prevalent overpayment offset wars:  

Peterson, D.C. et al v. UnitedHealth Group Inc. et al, U.S. District Court, U.S. District of Minnesota (DMN) CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 0:14-cv-02101-PJS-BRT

These new ERISA embezzlement cases are part of a growing trend consistent with the court’s Hi-Lex decisions.

This lawsuit in particular should serve as a warning and wake up call for all Plan Administrators to continually monitor their TPAs in accordance with the Plan Administrator’s statutory fiduciary duties and to discharge its duties with respect to a plan solely in the interest of the participants for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to them.

For over 7 years, Avym Corp. has advocated for ERISA plan assets audit and embezzlement recovery education and consulting. With new Supreme Court guidance on ERISA anti-fraud protection, we are ready to assist all self-insured plans recover billions of dollars of self-insured plan assets, on behalf of hard-working Americans. To find out more about Avym Corporation’s Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Specialist (FOR) and Fiduciary Overpayment Recovery Contractor (FORC) programs click here.