High court refuses to hear Blues’ appeal

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan of a $6.1 million judgment against the insurer for hidden charges billed to customers.

The high court announced Monday that it will not review a ruling by a federal court in Detroit in the lawsuit filed by Hi-Lex Controls Inc. The company alleged the Blues marked up employee hospital claims by as much as 22 percent and pocketed the overcharge.

U.S. District Court Judge Victoria A. Roberts ruled in favor of Hi-Lex in May 2013, concluding that Michigan’s largest health insurer violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by collecting additional compensation without customers' knowledge. The fees were collected over 20 years.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati affirmed Roberts’ ruling, saying “BCBSM committed fraud by knowingly misrepresenting and omitting information about the Disputed Fees in contract documents.”

All court appeals are now exhausted. The Varnum law firm, which represented Hi-Lex, said the Supreme Court’s decision clears the way for similar lawsuits, brought by other Blues customers, to move forward.

“We are disappointed in the decision,” Helen Stojic, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said in a statement Monday. “The access fees in dispute enabled Hi-Lex to receive substantial discounts in hospital services which resulted in millions of dollars of savings in hospital costs.”