938 F.Supp. 1131 (E.D.N.Y. 1996), C. A. CV-95-0850, Medicare Beneficiaries' Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield

Docket NºC. A. CV-95-0850
Citation938 F.Supp. 1131
Party NameMedicare Beneficiaries' Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield
Case DateAugust 26, 1996
CourtUnited States District Courts, 2nd Circuit, Eastern District of New York

Page 1131

938 F.Supp. 1131 (E.D.N.Y. 1996)

MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES' DEFENSE FUND, and Renee Zernay, Albert Klass on Behalf of Hilda Klass, and Gertrude Constantine, Plaintiffs,

v.

EMPIRE BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD, Defendant.

Civil Action No. CV-95-0850 (DGT).

United States District Court, E.D. New York.

Aug. 26, 1996

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Cardozo Bet Tzedek Legal Services, New York City, for Plaintiffs.

Kelley Drye & Warren, New York City, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

TRAGER, District Judge:

Plaintiffs are an advocacy organization for Medicare recipients and three elderly persons who are or were at the pertinent time enrolled in group health insurance provided by defendant Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield as the result of their own or their spouses' employment while they (or their spouse) were working for an employer with twenty or more employees. The individual plaintiffs, Renee Zernay, 1 Albert Klass (on behalf of his deceased wife Hilda), and Gertrude Constantine, are proposed representatives of a class consisting of:

All Medicare eligible individuals who incurred or will incur medical expenses while working, or at a time their spouses were working, in groups covered by the Medicare Secondary Payer Program:

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(a) who had employer group health coverage provided by Empire at the time the medical expenses were incurred, and

(b) who on or after March 2, 1989 were denied insurance reimbursement by Empire, or who received less reimbursement than the amounts provided under the groups' primary employer group health insurance plan, based on the fact that they were eligible for Medicare at the time the medical expenses were incurred, and

(c) who have either paid for or still owe their health care providers for the unreimbursed amounts described above. 2

Plaintiffs assert that some of their claims for benefits were denied by Empire, under both their private Medigap insurance and Medicare, so that they were either forced to pay the costs of their health care themselves or their provider has remained unpaid. Empire has filed third-party complaints against the Klass' former employer, The Jewish Press, Inc., and Mrs. Constantine's former employer, Albert Constantine and Sons, Inc. ("Constantine Sons").

Empire has replied that, while Ms. Zernay's claim was denied in error, 3 its denial of the Klass and Constantine claims on behalf of Medicare and their employers' group health plans was correct because The Jewish Press and Constantine Sons, respectively, had incorrectly enrolled Mrs. Klass and Mrs. Constantine in supplemental (Medigap) health plans. Empire argues that if it is liable to Mrs. Constantine and the estate of Mrs. Klass, then Constantine Sons and The Jewish Press must indemnify Empire because they misrepresented the employment status of the insureds that caused Empire's fault in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(1)(A)(i) and because these employers were unjustly enriched by their misrepresentation through incurring lower costs for their group health plan as the result of the misenrollment.

Plaintiffs seek damages from Empire's misenrollment of them in Medigap coverage in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1935y(b)(1)(A)(i) and its consequent failure to pay or, at least, to pay fully, their health care claims pursuant to the terms of their policies, damages under ERISA, damages for "emotional distress," and lastly, treble damages under N.Y.Gen.Bus.L. § 349(h). Plaintiffs also seek a preliminary injunction "enjoining Empire from continuing to deny insurance reimbursement to the named plaintiffs, and a permanent injunction directing Empire to identify all class members, to make appropriate corrective payments to them ..." Compl. Request for Relief ¶ 5.

For the reasons stated below, a revised class, specified below, is conditionally certified under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3) and 23(c)(1).

Background

1. Medicare Insurance Coverage

Under the law in effect since 1986, after an employee (or the employee's spouse) reaches the age of sixty-five and the employee retires from employment, Medicare becomes the retiree's primary payor for health care costs. However, because Medicare does not pay 100 percent of expenses, many retirees choose to purchase additional coverage which is sometimes offered by their former employer. Empire offers such insurance policies to individuals and to employers' group health plans (for retirees) to cover health care costs not covered by Medicare. These policies will be collectively referred to as "Medigap" policies. Medigap becomes the retiree's secondary payer for health care costs, meaning that it pays the amount (or a portion of the amount) not paid or reimbursed by Medicare. Under

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present law, Medigap may also be the secondary payor for Medicare-eligible employees of employers with fewer than twenty employees.

When an individual continues working past sixty-five or past the date when his or her covered spouse becomes sixty-five, the Medicare Secondary Payor ("MSP"), 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(1)(A), statute becomes applicable, so long as his employer employs twenty or more employees. MSP requires employers with 20 or more employees to provide active employees and their spouses sixty-five years of age or older the same health care benefits as the employer provides to active employees and spouses under sixty-five. At the same time, active employees sixty-five years of age or older are also entitled to Medicare benefits. In such a situation, Medicare becomes the secondary payor for health care costs while any employer-provided plan remains the primary payor. Although employers are not required by the MSP statute to provide any particular level of benefits under their private plans, employers may not take into account the older employees' (or their spouses') entitlement to Medicare benefits in determining the benefits to which those employees are entitled to under the employers' primary plans.

The MSP "working aged" provisions were enacted between 1980 and 1986. Prior to the enactment of MSP, effective in 1983, Medicare was the primary health care payor for all persons over sixty-five, regardless of their employment status. In 1983, Congress adopted the first Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) provisions applicable to employed individuals (but not their spouses) aged sixty-five through sixty-nine. In 1985 the MSP statute was extended to employees' spouses aged sixty-five through sixty-nine. In 1986 the statute was amended to remove the age-limitation from MSP for both working aged and their spouses.

It may be a curiosity without greater significance, but all of the plaintiffs may have been unaffected by the first two modifications in the law. 4 That is, all were appropriately enrolled in Medigap coverage from the time they became sixty-five until the law was changed in 1986 to eliminate any age limit for MSP. In 1983, Mrs. Constantine was eighty-one, Ms. Zernay seventy-five, and Mr. Klass was seventy-three, all over its age limit for Medicare secondary status. When the 1986 amendment became effective, Mrs. Constantine was eighty-three, Ms. Zernay seventy-eight, Mr. Klass seventy-six and Mrs. Klass seventy-two.

Plaintiffs have submitted six Explanation of Benefits forms Mrs. Klass or her husband (Mrs. Klass' date of death is not clear from the papers) received from Medicare, three of which paid Medicare primary for portions of her expenses, and three of which denied coverage on grounds that her group health plan was primary. The total for the unpaid bills is $498.42. Pltf. Ex. B. Mrs. Constantine wrote in a May 25, 1994 letter Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield that her unpaid bills exceeded $2,000. Pltf. Ex. C. Plaintiff Zernay's bills exceeded $5,000 and were paid by Empire only after a two year period of repeated denials. Golick Aff. dated March 6, 1995 ¶ 17.

2. Widespread Misenrollment of the Working Aged in Empire Medigap Plans

A 1994 audit of Empire's compliance with the MSP law performed by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services found widespread misenrollment of the working aged by Empire in its Medigap plans (or, at least, erroneous processing of claims as Medicare Primary). That report indicated that between January 1, 1983 and November 20, 1989:

... substantial amounts of improper Medicare primary payments were made by [Medicare] contractors when the Empire

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private lines of business should have paid primary for these medical services. Using statistical sampling techniques, we estimate that approximately $85 million in improper payments were made during the period January 1, 1983, through November 20, 1989, for beneficiaries subject to the working-aged criteria of the MSP statute.... This data match identified approximately $2.8 billion in Medicare expenditures for 13 million claims paid for 327,000 individuals meeting the working-aged criteria of the MSP statute and who were part of an Empire EGHP [Employer Group Health Plan].

Ex. A attached to Golick Aff. dated July 18, 1995 at 1-2, 4 (emphasis added).

Empire argues that it has corrected the problem since the OIG report was issued in 1994, that it has always done a competent job of informing employers of the MSP law and that most working-aged individuals covered by the MSP law were correctly insured under primary policies. Empire also claims that it has only received complaints from two other similar situated individuals. It argues that, because of the high cost of health care, if there were other individuals similarly situated, it would have heard from them. Ventriello Aff. dated June 23, 1995, ¶ 19. Finally, Empire argues that given Medicare's...

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18 practice notes
  • 197 F.R.D. 48 (S.D.N.Y. 2000), 98Civ.5283(RLC), Selby v. Principal Mut. Life Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • September 15, 2000
    ...establishing that the class meets the Rule 23 requirements. See Medicare Beneficiaries' Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, 938 F.Supp. 1131, 1139 (E.D.N.Y.1996) (" Medicare Beneficiaries " ). In specific, plaintiff must establish that the class meets all of the require......
  • 185 F.R.D. 372 (S.D.Fla. 1999), 97-0807-CIV-GOLD, Israel v. Avis Rent-A-Car Systems, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Southern District of Florida
    • February 8, 1999
    ...common question has been resolved does not defeat predominance. Medicare Beneficiaries' Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, 938 F.Supp. 1131 (D.C.N.Y.1996) (Rule 23(b)(3) commonality requirement met even though individual issues existed such as nature of oral misrepresentations t......
  • Scholtisek v. Eldre Corp., 020305 NYWDC, 03-CV-6656
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Western District of New York
    • February 3, 2005
    ...Motor Freight Sys., Inc. v. Rodriguez, 431 U.S. 395, 405 (1977); Medicare Beneficiaries' Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, 938 F.Supp. 1131, 1139 (E.D.N.Y. In sum, a court considering a class certification motion "must look somewhere between the pleading and the fruit of d......
  • 190 F.R.D. 359 (E.D.Pa. 2000), Civ. A. MDL 1273, In re Life USA Holding, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • January 13, 2000
    ...whether the requirements of Rule 23 have been satisfied. Medicare Beneficiaries Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, 938 F.Supp. 1131, 1139 (E.D.N.Y.1996); W.P. v. Poritz, 931 F.Supp. 1187, 1192 (D.N.J.1996), rev'd on other grounds, 119 F.3d 1077 (3rd Cir.1997); Arenson v. Whiteha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • 197 F.R.D. 48 (S.D.N.Y. 2000), 98Civ.5283(RLC), Selby v. Principal Mut. Life Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • September 15, 2000
    ...establishing that the class meets the Rule 23 requirements. See Medicare Beneficiaries' Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, 938 F.Supp. 1131, 1139 (E.D.N.Y.1996) (" Medicare Beneficiaries " ). In specific, plaintiff must establish that the class meets all of the require......
  • 185 F.R.D. 372 (S.D.Fla. 1999), 97-0807-CIV-GOLD, Israel v. Avis Rent-A-Car Systems, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Southern District of Florida
    • February 8, 1999
    ...common question has been resolved does not defeat predominance. Medicare Beneficiaries' Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, 938 F.Supp. 1131 (D.C.N.Y.1996) (Rule 23(b)(3) commonality requirement met even though individual issues existed such as nature of oral misrepresentations t......
  • Scholtisek v. Eldre Corp., 020305 NYWDC, 03-CV-6656
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Western District of New York
    • February 3, 2005
    ...Motor Freight Sys., Inc. v. Rodriguez, 431 U.S. 395, 405 (1977); Medicare Beneficiaries' Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, 938 F.Supp. 1131, 1139 (E.D.N.Y. In sum, a court considering a class certification motion "must look somewhere between the pleading and the fruit of d......
  • 190 F.R.D. 359 (E.D.Pa. 2000), Civ. A. MDL 1273, In re Life USA Holding, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • January 13, 2000
    ...whether the requirements of Rule 23 have been satisfied. Medicare Beneficiaries Defense Fund v. Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, 938 F.Supp. 1131, 1139 (E.D.N.Y.1996); W.P. v. Poritz, 931 F.Supp. 1187, 1192 (D.N.J.1996), rev'd on other grounds, 119 F.3d 1077 (3rd Cir.1997); Arenson v. Whiteha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results