(Hartford, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) filed an amicus brief in support of the Fairfield County Medical Association and Hartford County Medical Association, both of whom filed a lawsuit against UnitedHealthcare Group (UHG) in November alleging the nation’s largest insurer is breaking its contractual obligation with association members by dropping them from its Medicare Advantage network. In the brief, Blumenthal argues that Connecticut patients are facing a “Hobson’s Choice” as a result of UHG’s actions.
“In the absence of an injunction, the patients of the over 2,200 terminated physicians will face irreparable harm by being effectively denied access to their long-standing and chosen physicians,” the brief states. “Connecticut patients will immediately face the Hobson’s choice of having to give up their current physicians, thereby risking medical errors arising from lack of continuity of care, or paying much higher rates to retain their current physicians.”
In the brief, Blumenthal lists 11 examples of patients and providers who are facing “irreparable harm” as a result of UHG’s actions. In one example, a 75-year-old Branford, CT resident was informed that he would no longer be able to receive his medically necessary cancer treatment as a result of UHG dropping his treatment team from its network. In another example, a provider in Stafford Springs, CT states that his full-time family practice, the only one in Stafford Springs, is at risk of financial devastation, and that many of his patients, 38 percent of whom are Medicare beneficiaries, will be left without a primary care physician close to home as a result of UHG dropping him from its network. In all cases, the patients and providers reached out to Blumenthal’s office for help.
“These examples confirm the District Court’s finding of irreparable harm inasmuch as ‘the disruption of the physician-patient relationship can cause irreparable harm that justifies issuing preliminary injunctive relief, particularly when the patient belongs to a vulnerable class or may have a deep trust relationship with the physician because of the serious nature of the patient’s illness or medical needs,” the brief states. “The examples related above are just the tip of the iceberg. The termination of 2,200 physicians from a health care plan in a state the size of Connecticut creates enormous risks to patient safety on a state-wide basis.”
Full text of the brief can be found here.