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CIGNA: Class, Action
The tightwads at CIGNA Healthcare face further legal troubles stemming from their practice of hiding discounts for hospital services from CIGNA customers.

Last March, the firm signed a state Department of Insurance consent decree admitting no wrongdoing but agreeing to pay $127,000 in restitution to several hundred Arizona customers who were fooled by CIGNA's pricing structure.

Now some of the customers who claim CIGNA defrauded them have received a federal court's approval to bring a class-action lawsuit against the insurance giant, whose acronym is rumored to stand for: Called In, Got No Answer.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Broomfield on August 17 certified the class-action filing, brought by Phoenix fraud investigator James C. Sell. The suit only includes CIGNA's Arizona customers.

Sell alleges that CIGNA falsely sold policies that purported to limit policyholders' co-insurance payments to a certain percentage of the total cost of a medical service, typically 20 percent. In fact, Sell claims, CIGNA secretly signed agreements with hospitals calling for discounts for medic al services but didn't pass on the savings to customers. Rather than paying 20 percent of the co-insurance, CIGNA customers frequently paid far greater sums, Sell claims.

See Donkeys Do Tricks
Ever feel like you've read that letter to the editor somewhere else? Maybe you have. In its latest newsletter, the Arizona Democratic party advises members on how to express their views in letters to local newspapers. The party of intellectuals obviously doesn't have a lot of faith in the masses--they've even provided the letters!

Anyone who's ever worked on a political campaign knows the not-so-deep secret of circulating sample letters slamming the opposition. But in your party newsletter, sent to thousands of people en masse? How shameless.

"From time to time, we will run sample letters that you can either copy or modify with additional thoughts," the newsletter advises. One letter takes Republican legislators to task for redecorating with overpriced chairs: "Why is it the Republicans in the State Senate want to spend our money to buy new chairs that cost $550 each? I don't own a $550 chair, don't know anyone who owns a $550 chair and I don't know why they need a $550 chair. . . . " (The Flash can't help commenting here: Of course, you don't. You friggin' Democrats! You don't own anything of value.)

Another missive addresses the issue of Governor Fife Symington's $8.8 million Mercado debt. It concludes, "If I said I wasn't going to pay my mortgage or my credit-card bill, I'd end up in jail or tossed out into the street.

"What makes Symington think he's different from the rest of us? "Sincerely, "[Fill in the Blank]"

The Dems have got a good point. The Fifester probably doesn't pen his own correspondence, either.

Feed The Flash: voice, 229-8486; fax, 340-8806; online, flash@newtimes.com


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