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Court Grants Reprieve to Doctors

HARTFORD — Thousands of doctors working with UnitedHealthcare received a reprieve from losing their jobs after a federal judge late Thursday issued an injunction.

Federal Court Judge Stefan Underhill issued a decision granting the members of the Fairfield County Medical Association and Hartford County Medical Association a preliminary injunction preventing UnitedHealthcare from unilaterally cutting their jobs.

But the fight is not over to save more than 2,250 physicians who were informed in November that United Healthcare would cut them from the insurer’s Medicare Advantage Network.

The two medical associations filed the legal challenge in early November seeking to block UnitedHealthcare from terminating as many as 2,250 physicians, or approximately 20 percent of its entire doctor network in Connecticut.

According to the Associations, about 20,000 to 30,000 Medicare patients could be impacted by UnitedHealthcare’s decision to axe that many physicians in Connecticut.

In a statement to the press, President of the Fairfield County Medical Association Dr. Robin Oshman responded to the judge’s decision:

“Both the Fairfield and Hartford County Medical Associations took this bold step for our patients and for our member physicians,” Oshman said. We won’t let UnitedHeathcare get away with interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. While this is one huge step in the right direction, the journey is far from over.”

The preliminary injunction order prohibits UnitedHealthcare from terminating any of the Associations’ members from the Medicare Advantage Network, notifying their Medicare Advantage customers/insured that certain providers will be terminated from Medicare Advantage Network as of Feb. 1, 2014; and removing or failing to advertise/market the Association’s affected physicians in UnitedHealthcare’s 2014 directories for the Medicare Advantage Network.

“This major ruling by Judge Stefan Underhill is proof that the voices of our patients and the 1800 member physicians were heard loud and clear!  As physicians we are first and foremost advocates for our patients and for their access to the medical care they deserve.  That will continue to be our focus moving forward,” said Dr. Bollepalli Subbarao, President of the Hartford County Medical Association.

Attorney Roy W. Breitenbach of Garfunkel Wild, PC, served as the attorney for the Fairfield and Hartford County Medical Associations. Breitenbach said the preliminary injunction protects the state’s most vulnerable patients, mainly the elderly, disabled and some of whom have terminal illnesses.

“This is a victory for not only the 3,300 plus member physicians of Fairfield and Hartford County Medical Associations,” he said. “it also speaks clearly to the importance of not allowing health insurance companies to place profits ahead of patient care.”

UnitedHealth Care did not respond to request for comments.

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