Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2014

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Court says man who contracted hepatitis cannot sue Medicare insurer

CARSON CITY — In a split decision, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled today that a Las Vegas man cannot sue a health maintenance organization for sending him to the clinic where there was an outbreak of hepatitis in 2008.

Louis Morrison was insured through Medicare, which contracted with Health Plan of Nevada to cover patients. Health Plan had an agreement to refer patients to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

Morrison, according to court records, is 84 years old and contracted hepatitis at the center, where unsafe practices led to the outbreak.

He sued Health Plan of Nevada, alleging negligence for failing to ensure safe practices were being used at the endoscopy center.

The 4-2 majority decision authored by Justice James Hardesty said a person receiving Medicare benefits cannot lodge a negligence claim against the contracted insurance company.

The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Michael Cherry, said Congress never intended to produce unequal results for Medicare enrollees. Non-Medicare enrollees can sue for negligence, but those covered by Medicare cannot file negligence complaints, said Cherry.

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