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Cigna Corp. Accused of Corruption

December 4, 2002

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MIAMI (AP) _ Cigna Corp. reached a ``sweetheart″ settlement in an Illinois lawsuit by colluding with lawyers in that case, attorneys for doctors suing the company in Florida told a federal judge Tuesday.

Attorneys representing about 700,000 doctors in the larger Florida suit are asking U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno to issue an injunction against the proposed settlement and to fine the Philadelphia-based health insurer.

Last week, Cigna, the nation’s third-largest health insurer, announced that it would take a charge of at least $50 million to settle the Illinois case accusing it of underpaying doctors.

In the Miami case, which includes Cigna and other insurers, doctors claim they are routinely shortchanged in a system that makes it costly and time-consuming for them to object when their claims are underpaid.

Doctors’ attorneys in Miami have called the Illinois agreement ``woefully inadequate″ and want Cigna to be held in contempt and fined. They contend both judges have been ``snookered″ as doctors’ interests were shortchanged by attorneys pursuing a large settlement fee.

``Cigna’s purpose was to achieve a sweetheart settlement without the scrutiny of this court,″ doctors’ attorneys said in court documents. They claimed Cigna was ``making an end run around″ the Miami umbrella case.

But Cigna attorney John Harkins told Moreno, ``This was not some grand plot.″

Cigna spokesman Wendell Potter said before Tuesday’s hearing that the company’s goal was to spend more time cooperating with doctors and other providers ``rather than devoting more time and resources to litigation.″

Harkins said the Miami lawyers were aware of a draft settlement package in the Illinois case since August. ``We had excruciating efforts to get this side aboard, and they wouldn’t do it,″ he said.

Health insurers have been fighting to kill or whittle down the batch of doctors’ lawsuits and have appeals pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal appeals court in Atlanta.

Moreno said he would decide by Dec. 13 whether to issue the injunction.

Moreno said he spoke with U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy in East St. Louis, Ill. about the case. Murphy has given preliminary approval to the settlement filed last week. ``What he said is, ’Use your judgment,‴ Moreno said.

Medical societies already are lining up on both sides of the agreement: 20 against and four in favor.

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On the Net:

Cigna Corp: http://www.cigna.com

Illinois lawsuit: http://www.cigna-classaction.com

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