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UnitedHealth Sued by Over Mental Health-Care Access

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March 11 (Bloomberg) -- UnitedHealth Group Inc. was sued by the New York State Psychiatric Association and mental-health patients over claims the insurer violated laws barring unequal coverage for psychiatric conditions.

UnitedHealth, the second-largest U.S. health insurer, has maintained “unjustifiably stringent medical-necessity criteria and pre-authorization requirements for mental-health services,” the plaintiffs said in a complaint filed today in federal court in Manhattan.

The company denied or limited access to psychotherapy and other mental-health treatments for patients suffering from conditions including psychosis, chronic depression, and anxiety disorders, according to the 102-page complaint, which seeks to represent all customers of the company facing similar situations.

So-called parity laws of the U.S., New York and California prohibit insurers from imposing more restrictive limits on care for mental health than for other health-care conditions, according to the complaint.

Individuals signing on to the suit include a professor at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, a director of marketing for CBS Sports Network, and a marketing associate for a unit of Sysco Corp.

Internal Appeals

The Minnetonka, Minnesota-based insurer also violated the federal Affordable Care Act by failing to continue to pay for mental-health treatment until final internal appeals were resolved, according to the complaint.

“We are committed to helping people with mental-health issues reach long-term recovery,” Brad Lotterman, a spokesman for UnitedHealth, said in an e-mail. “We recently received the complaint and are currently reviewing.”

The plaintiffs are seeking damages and an injunction against future discrimination.

The case is New York State Psychiatric Association Inc. v. UnitedHealth, 13-cv-1599, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Christie Smythe in Brooklyn, New York, at csmythe1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net UNH US <Equity>

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