UnitedHealth hit with another lawsuit over mental health coverage

UnitedHealthcare is facing another lawsuit that alleges the health insurer discriminated against members who received mental health services, according to The Recorder.

The latest lawsuit, filed Nov. 7 against UnitedHealthcare and its subsidiary United Behavioral Health, argues the health insurer violated mental health parity laws by exempting coverage for intensive behavioral therapy, like Applied Behavioral Analysis for autism patients. 

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, comes after a class-action lawsuit was filed in September against the insurer, accusing it of illegally denying mental health and addiction benefits to maximize profits. The September lawsuit cited a March decision ruling that UnitedHealth denied care to patients needing mental health treatment to cut costs and breached its federal fiduciary duty to plan members.

UnitedHealth isn't the only insurer facing lawsuits and paying fines over coverage of mental health services. In January, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department fined Aetna over concerns about its coverage for autism spectrum and substance use disorders. In Indiana, Anthem restored rates for autism therapies this fall after a news station investigated how its adjusted fee schedule for applied behavioral analysis would affect some behavioral health providers. 

UnitedHealthcare did not immediately respond to The Recorder's request for comment on the most recent lawsuit. In a Sept. 18 comment to Becker's, UnitedHealthcare said, "We strive to ensure that health plan members have access to a network of evidence-informed care that has been shown to be most effective in helping people overcome and live better with behavioral health and substance abuse conditions, consistent with the terms of their individual health plans."

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