CLASS ACTION INSURANCE SUIT SETTLEMENT REACHED

Jan. 14, 2003 – A proposed settlement of a class-action suit against Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance Co. has won preliminary approval from a Territorial Court judge.
The settlement would give 3,491 V.I. government retirees and their covered spouses a piece of a $3.4 million pie. All had health insurance under the government's Blue Cross/Blue Shield group health insurance policy.
St. Thomas attorney Maria Tankenson Hodge, who filed the class-action suit on behalf of the retirees, said the settlement "is fair and reasonable." It won preliminary approval from Judge Ive A. Swan on Friday.
The suit centered on the company's refusal to pay doctor bills for retirees who did not buy the Medicare Part B plan. While standard Medicare, called Part A, is free, retirees must pay $600 a year for the Part B coverage, which helps pay doctor bills. Hodge said the insurance plan did not require retirees to sign on for the optional insurance but that retirees who had Part B also are covered in the suit.
The suit covers claims made between Jan. 1, 1998, and Sept. 30, 2001, by retirees who were over age 65. How much of the $3.4 million each retiree will get hasn't been decided. Those with large doctor bills will have to submit the bills in order to collect. Those with smaller bills will receive a pro-rated portion of the settlement.
A final hearing on the case is scheduled for May 19 in Territorial Court. Those involved in the suit are not required to attend the hearing but are welcome to do so or to send the court a letter outlining their response to the settlement.
According to a release from the law firm of Hodge & Francois, while Blue Cross/Blue Shield has not admitted to any wrongdoing, it will pay legal fees as well as the cost of administering the claims.
People who are eligible for participation in the settlement have two options:
– Then can wait for a letter from Blue Cross/Blue Shield explaining the settlement in more detail, with the letter to be followed by a check for their share of the settlement.
– They can submit a claim with copies of their medical bills and receipts seeking reimbursement for their actual doctor's bills.
Heirs of people named in the class action suit who have since died also can collect a share of the settlement. The suit was filed in the names of Lawrence Hodge, Gloria Davis and Gerald Hodge Sr. For more information, call Hodge & Francois at 774-6845.

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