ST. PAUL (AP) -- Attorney General Mike Hatch asked a judge Wednesday to order Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to release thousands of documents relating to mental health claims of juveniles and young adults.
Hatch says the company violated state consumer and insurance laws by denying mental health coverage to children suffering from mental illness, eating disorders and chemical dependency.
He repeatedly has asked Blue Cross for related documents, including the names of those denied mental health coverage and reports on how much funding was denied and ultimately shifted to government.
Blue Cross has denied the allegations and so far has refused to release that information, prompting Hatch's latest request.
The memorandum filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court supplements a lawsuit filed in October that seeks to stop the company from engaging in similar practices in the future, as well as civil penalties and restitution for injured consumers.
State officials hope to recover millions in costs the government has paid for mental health services for children covered by Blue Cross.
Accompanying the brief are affidavits of about 40 parents whose children were denied coverage and four former Blue Cross employees who support the allegations.
"We want to demonstrate to the judge that this is a pattern and a record of abuse," Hatch said.
A hearing is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 21.
Blue Cross officials have said the accusations were based on isolated incidents, taken out of context and grossly misrepresented.
Dr. John Scanlan, Blue Cross medical director for mental health and chemical dependencies, said earlier that the company does not "willy-nilly deny services."
He said Blue Cross pays for 94 percent of mental health and chemical dependency services requested, and that in most cases, disagreement is more about what level of care the patient needs.
The state Department of Human Services has a database of about 3,000 children and young adults through college age for whom mental health treatment was paid by the government over the last six years even though they had Blue Cross coverage, according to the documents Hatch filed Wednesday.
"I think it's a scandal," Hatch said.
The attorney general's office estimates that Blue Cross has diverted about $11 million in such claims to the government.
Roxanne Lewis, the former business manager for Behavioral Health Services Inc., which is owned by Blue Cross, said that is the goal.
"BHSI was ... operated to refer patients into the juvenile justice system and the foster care system so that, if the treatment was court ordered, BCBSM could deny coverage for the treatment," Lewis said.
In several cases, the company instructed parents to "use the juvenile justice system" or even to place their children in foster care rather than to provide health-care treatment, according to the lawsuit.
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