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Judges rule on pre-existing condition case

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Highlighting the highly controversial health care debate that’s played out during the past year, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled on a pretty straightforward case about a pre-existing condition clause that denied a man’s claim for long-term disability benefits.

Judge Terry Evans wrote for the unanimous panel, affirming a decision from Judge Larry McKinney in the Southern District of Indiana that had rejected the man’s Employment Retirement Income Security Act suit and granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. The case is The Estate of Norman Blanco, by its personal representative Steven C. Blanco v. Prudential Insurance Company Of America, Pruvalue Insurance Benefits Trust, and Porsche Engineering Services Inc., No. 08-2074.

“The phrase ‘preexisting condition’ was frequently in the news as efforts to enact national health care reform were debated over the last year,” Judge Evans began in the ruling. “And although our case today involves a preexisting condition exclusion, there is a twist.”

Now deceased, Norman Blanco had started at the age of 45 as an engineer at Porsche Engineering Services in Michigan in April 2005. His company’s welfare benefit plan covered by ERISA kicked in a month later and was underwritten and administered by Prudential Insurance, providing long- and short-term disability benefits to those who couldn’t work. Blanco suffered a heart attack in July and was unable to work for several days while hospitalized, and he later submitted a disability benefit claim. The short-term benefits were approved, but the long-term benefits weren’t because Prudential determined he had a preexisting condition based on a history of worsening heart disease and prior heart attacks and treatment that he didn’t always adhere to.

At the District Court level, Judge McKinney granted a summary judgment motion by Prudential Insurance, which had upheld the claim denial during an internal review process. The trial judge had limited some of the evidence in that case, and the appellate panel affirmed his decision. Blanco died following that decision, and his estate carried on the appeal.

Analyzing Judge McKinney’s ruling, the 7th Circuit decided that Blanco did fall under the pre-existing exclusion sections of ERISA and couldn’t receive those long-term benefits.

“The purpose of the policy is to exclude from coverage a person who is aware of something – be it a sign or symptom – for which a reasonably prudent person should seek treatment,” Judge Evans wrote.
 

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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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