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Zuckerman Spaeder Pursues Class Action Against UnitedHealth Group for Violating Law Requiring Mental Health Parity

March 21, 2017

Zuckerman Spaeder LLP today filed a class action complaint with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UHG) and its Oxford subsidiaries “categorically” denied insurance coverage for medically necessary treatment of eating disorders. The complaint was filed by Zuckerman Spaeder partners D. Brian Hufford and Jason S. Cowart on behalf of an individual who is insured under a United plan issued through its Oxford subsidiary (“plaintiff”) and a class of claimants suffering from eating disorders.

The lawsuit details violations of the Federal Mental Health Parity Act, the New York Mental Health Parity Act (known as Timothy’s Law), and the anti-discrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act (Section 2706). In the complaint, the plaintiff identifies a number of claim denials for nutritional counseling she received, based on UHG’s determination that such services are not covered under the plan. These examples highlight the consistent discrimination facing patients seeking this type of coverage. Nutritional counseling is an essential part of the treatment plan for the condition at issue, and UHG covers such treatment for non-behavioral health medical conditions, like diabetes.

Lead counsel D. Brian Hufford commented, “It’s clear to us that United Health has illegally denied mental health coverage for medically necessary eating disorder treatments. Their activity is another example of private health insurers discriminating against patients suffering from mental health issues, such as eating disorders. The purpose of this lawsuit is to force insurers to uphold their legal responsibilities when it comes to mental healthcare. We’re going to hold accountable any insurers that do not feel obligated to provide patients with the mental health coverage guaranteed to them in their plan and under the law.”

Mr. Hufford and Mr. Cowart have developed a national practice representing patients and health care providers such as doctors, hospitals, and medical equipment companies in disputes with health insurance companies. Their groundbreaking application of ERISA and other related federal and state laws has resulted in numerous precedent-setting wins, including two of the largest recoveries ever obtained in health insurance class actions. Copies of the complaint can be obtained by contacting Lori Duignan of Zuckerman Spaeder at lduignan@zuckerman.com.

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