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For Third Consecutive Year, Zuckerman Spaeder Partner D. Brian Hufford Named Law360 Health MVP

December 21, 2017

Zuckerman Spaeder LLP is pleased to announce that New York partner D. Brian Hufford has again been named a Law360 Health MVP of the Year. In its article about Mr. Hufford, Law360 says his “work challenging insurance companies' denials of coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatments has built on success that previously earned him Law360 MVP honors in 2015 and 2016.” Mr. Hufford was chosen out of an elite group of attorneys nationwide who have achieved the biggest wins and made the most significant contributions to their practice areas.

Law360’s 2017 recognition of Mr. Hufford focuses on his efforts to force insurers to live up to obligations under national and state mental health parity laws and related statutes. It notes that “Hufford’s team took two related cases to trial over claims that United Behavioral Health — a UnitedHealth Group Inc. subsidiary — systematically denied coverage for behavioral health treatment by overemphasizing severe and sudden, or acute, symptoms while ignoring chronic issues.” Said Mr. Hufford, “I could not have done any of this work without the leadership of Caroline Reynolds, who assumed primary responsibility for the day-to-day prosecution of the case from its inception. Our success has been a team effort.”

Mr. Hufford’s work on behavioral health cases is part of a broader fight to force insurance industry accountability and transparency, often by representing doctors and other health providers facing unfair billing practices. He and New York partner Jason Cowart have jointly developed the practice while helping to create good law for providers and patients in ongoing disputes with health insurance companies. As Law360 notes, “Like much of Hufford's work, the arguments against UBH in the Wit and Alexander cases were based on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which he said has been particularly effective in pursuing class-wide claims over insurance coverage denials. His use of ERISA was also featured among his MVP achievements for 2015.

The article recognizes how Mr. Hufford has overcome a roadblock in getting classes certified in lawsuits against health insurers, saying, “Over the years, insurance companies have used ERISA to block coverage challenges, but Hufford and his team found success when they turned it against insurers. Instead of trying to show that medically necessary services were denied, which would've required an individual assessment of each challenger's claims, Hufford and his team have argued that the insurers' internal policies were inherently arbitrary…”

In two recent opinion articles, for The Washington Post and CNBC, Mr. Hufford has drawn national attention to the health insurance industry’s pervasive efforts to undermine the delivery of quality, affordable health care.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Hufford spent two years as an honors attorney in the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Honors Law Program. He attended Yale Law School, where he was notes and topics editor for the Yale Law and Policy Review and was awarded the Thomas I. Emerson Prize for the Outstanding Legislative Services Project. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Urban Affairs from Wichita State University.

Mr. Hufford and Mr. Cowart are part of a team of attorneys in Zuckerman Spaeder's cutting edge health care practice, which is a national leader in fighting for the legal rights of providers and patients. Having pioneered unique applications of ERISA, the team works to hold insurance companies accountable for the internal rules and procedures that drive so many decisions affecting patient health and provider reimbursements. This work has led to precedent-setting wins for health providers and two of the largest settlements of ERISA benefit class actions in history. Their work on behalf of mental health patients has gained high-profile support, including from the Department of Labor and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

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