Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Insurance Companies and Federal Judges Getting Together to Party and Scheme: What Could Go Wrong?

As we have seen there are judges who are becoming fed up with ERISA and its malignant effects on the behavior of insurance companies and the ability of insureds to enforce the promises made in insurance policies.

These judges, of course, do not make up the entirety of the federal judiciary. There are other judges who actually sit down and party and break bread with insurance companies.

Take, for example, the upcoming ERISA Litigation Conference to be presented by the American Conference Institute. This shindig will be raging at the ritzy Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in NYC on October 19 and 20.

What could possibly be wrong with that? Well, consider for one thing that when you have a claim denied and you ask for reconsideration from an insurance company, they are (supposedly) required by law to undertake a “full and fair” review of the claim, and conduct it impartially in accordance with their so-called fiduciary duties. Among these fiduciary duties are that they are required to discharge their duties “solely in the interest of the participants and beneficiaries.”

So what are these insurance companies (and plan sponsors and service providers) and federal judges going to be talking about over their caviar and bubbly? How about this: “Using the claims review process to set up, control and strengthen the defense”? (page 1 of the ACI brochure linked above) Or “Anticipating claims when making the decision and preparing to defend it before the decision is made”? (Page 3 of the linked brochure).

See, guys, when you are undertaking a review of a denied claim, and you are supposed to do that "solely in the interests of the participants and beneficiaries,” you are not supposed to be thinking about scrubbing the claim file so as to “set up, control and strengthen the defense.” You are not supposed to be “anticipating claims” or “preparing to defend it before the decision is made” since, of course, you approach your job with an open and fair mind and you don’t even know you’re going to deny the claim until you have assembled all the facts and applied your impartial, professional expertise to the decision.



And of course while the insurers are discussing how to use the claims review process to prepare for the defense of a future lawsuit instead of applying it to the "sole interest of participants and beneficiaries,” they’ll be doing so while rubbing elbows with “21 federal judges from district courts located in 8 circuits.” (Page 1 of the linked brochure). This, of course, is like Al Capone and Baby Face Nelson setting up a party at the Waldorf Astoria to discuss “Tommy Gun serial number removal techniques” and “get-away cars: the fastest and most inconspicuous models,” while inviting federal judges to come and enjoy the fete.

It smells, sure. Just remember, next time you ask your insurance company to reconsider its denial of your health insurance claim, all you will really get is a reconsideration by the insurance company as to whether it should continue to pay benefits, and thus reduce its profits. And all the while they’ll be thinking about “using the claims review process to set up, control and strengthen the defense.”

Funny, by the way, that ACI’s own web site has sequestered information about this conference. Guess we’re not supposed to know about it. My bad; looks like I was mistaken about that. I can't get the page to come up on my computer but I am told others can.

1 comment:

  1. Richard,

    Thanks for that slap-in-the-face article, I'm still smarting from it.

    No code of conduct for federal judges?