UnitedHealth improperly denied mental health claims, judge rules

A judge ruled that a UnitedHealth Group unit instituted guidelines that denied care to patients needing mental health treatment to cut costs, according to The New York Times.

Four things to know:

1. U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero made his decision March 5 in Northern California. He ruled that the insurer's unit that administers treatment for addiction and mental illness, United Behavioral Health, breached its federal fiduciary duty.

2. In his 106-page ruling, Mr. Spero said that UnitedHealth's internal policies for mental health coverage are "unreasonable and an abuse of discretion" and that they are "infected" by financial incentives, according to The New York Times.

3. In an emailed statement to the publication, UnitedHealth disagreed with the judge's ruling. "We look forward to demonstrating in the next phase of this case how our members received appropriate care. We remain committed to providing our members with access to the right care for the treatment of mental health conditions and substance use disorders."

4. A final judgment is set to come from Mr. Spero in the next few months, according to the report.

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