Doctors’ group files
suit against HMSA

The 1,600-member HMA sues
for alleged unlawful practices

By Helen Altonn

The Hawaii Medical Association, which represents 1,600 physicians, filed a lawsuit today against the Hawaii Medical Services Association alleging it engages in unlawful business practices.

A class action lawsuit also was filed on behalf of HMA members.

The lawsuits allege that HMSA, the state's largest health insurer, has breached its physician contracts and deliberately underpays physicians' claims.

HMSA Senior Vice President Cliff Cisco said this morning he hasn't seen the lawsuits and couldn't comment on them, but the complaints appear similar to those raised by some physicians in the past.

HMSA "is paying claims appropriately and providing cost-effective quality health care to the people of Hawaii," Cisco said.

Dr. Gerald McKenna of Maui, HMA president, said, "Hawaii physicians have labored under the burden of managed care abuses for more than 10 years. We all agree that medical costs must be contained, but targeting physicians by restricting their ability to practice medicine, not reimbursing them for services rendered and overburdening physician office staff is not the answer."

McKenna said the "health and welfare of Hawaii's citizens" is at stake, as well as survival of the medical profession.

The lawsuits were filed in Hawaii's First Circuit Court by Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, Price Okamoto Himeno & Lum and Robert Miller, University of Hawaii professor emeritus of law.

Milberg Weiss, a law firm with offices in New York and other cities, represents a number of state medical societies challenging practices of managed care organizations.

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