Family Wins $1 Million in Health Net Suit

In a case brought by a Camarillo attorney--mirroring an earlier case that yielded a record $89-million judgment--an arbitrator Tuesday awarded $1.02 million to the family of a woman that sued a health maintenance organization for withholding expensive treatment.

Lawyer Mark Hiepler represented the family of Christy deMeurers, which alleged that the insurance company Health Net denied the now-deceased Riverside County woman a bone marrow transplant because it was too expensive.

Health Net claimed that the procedure was not medically necessary to treat deMeurers' breast cancer. Bone marrow transplants are often needed after cancer patients are treated with high doses of chemotherapy.

The arbitration panel ruled Tuesday that the company "improperly [sought] to influence patient care" by pressuring doctors to change their medical opinions and advise against the bone marrow transplant treatment.

Hiepler of Camrillo won an $89-million judgment against Health Net in 1993 when the HMO refused his sister a bone marrow transplant under similar circumstances.

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