One federal court decision could affect the way that health insurance benefits treat employee mental health claims in Washington, D.C., and across the country. In the case of Wit v. United Behavioral Health (UBH), a managed health care company was found responsible for denying tens of thousands of workers' insurance claims for mental health or substance abuse treatments. UBH oversees behavioral health services for a number of health insurance companies, including UnitedHealthcare.
Eleven plaintiffs filed suit against UBH on behalf of over 50,000 people whose claims were denied. They alleged, and the court agreed, that these denials were based on flawed criteria. In one case, a plaintiff made out-of-pocket payments of nearly $30,000 for health care treatment despite having valid health insurance throughout that time. The court said that UBH's guidelines were unreasonable and designed to restrict access to care, rather than making use of standard, evidence-based medical guidelines to determine the necessity of treatment. The case was filed as an ERISA benefits claim, making use of the protections of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.