A health care class action lawsuit is a class action suit by a group of patients against an organization that provides health care goods or services. It is typically initiated by a group of patients who have been similarly harmed by the actions of their health care provider.
A health care class action lawsuit allows the claims of each harmed patient to be resolved in one case, rather than every harmed patient filing their lawsuit against the provider separately. Some common cases include health care providers refusing to provide or cover the cost of (in the case of an insurer) certain health care related goods or services.
For example, in 2015 insurance provider Anthem refused to cover Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy to children with autism after they become eight years-old. A group of 201 families with children who were denied the therapy initiated a class action suit against Anthem. After a three-year court battle, the families won a $1.6 million settlement from Anthem.
Like other types of class action suits, the group is represented by one or more of the harmed patients, called a class representative, also known as the lead plaintiff. The class representative and their legal counsel carry on the case on behalf of the group, who have given up their right to sue to the class representative. Other than the fact that it is carried out by patients, there is very little difference between the process of filing a health care class action lawsuit and other types of class actions lawsuits.
Health care class actions are often brought under various federal and state laws, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and various state consumer and contract laws.