Woman wins lawsuit against health insurance for opioid addiction

A Los Angeles County jury this week awarded more than $14 million to a woman who sued her health insurance provider, alleging that the company’s long delay in approving the surgery for a painful illness led to his dependence on opioids.

Health Net was ordered to pay $7.5 million in punitive damages and $6.9 million in compensatory damages after the jury ruled that the company had delayed or denied care without reasonable cause, prompting a damage to plaintiff, Elaine Courtney.

Health Net, which also administers Medi-Cal health plans, said it was “exploring.” [its] options to appeal”.

“Health Net believes the trial verdict is flawed,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously defend our position in court, as well as our record of providing quality care to millions of Californians.”

Courtney filed the lawsuit against Health Net after her attempts to get surgery for a painful colorectal condition were repeatedly delayed for months at a time, her attorney Travis Corby said in an interview.

While Courtney was waiting for final approval of the procedure, Health Net did not make its specialists available to her, according to the suit. He was eventually prescribed opioid medications for pain control.

Doctors expected Courtney to undergo the procedure within four to six weeks of the prescription, Corby said.

Two weeks after receiving the prescription, she contacted Health Net several times, again requesting the surgery and expressing a desire not to receive the pain medication, but the surgery was postponed for six months, Corby said.

“She was never operated on until a few months later, and she predictably became dependent on the medication and couldn’t kick the habit,” he said.

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