Patients Sue HMOs in Hepatitis C Outbreak - 8 News NOW

Patients Sue HMOs in Hepatitis C Outbreak

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LAS VEGAS -- Lawyers are battling it out in court again over southern Nevada's unprecedented hepatitis C outbreak in 2007.

This time, health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, are being sued in the latest legal feud over Dr. Dipak Desai.

Pharmaceutical companies have already been sued, losing a $505 million verdict over the outbreak.

State and federal criminal trials against Desai are still in the early phases.

And a jury must now decide if HMOs, a form of health insurance, are also to blame.

Bonnie Brunson is one of the genetically-linked patients who contracted hepatitis c at Desai's Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

Brunson and her husband, Carl, are suing along with another patient, Helen Meyer.

"They've been suffering with this since 2005, … when they got their hepatitis C," their attorney, Robert Eglet, said.

In the negligence lawsuit filed against the HMOs, Eglet blames the insurance companies, including Health Plan of Nevada.

He said they are as much to blame as other key players in the hepatitis C health scare.

"More so, because we believe the evidence will show, like I said, that they knew, or should have known, what was happening at these clinics, and failed to comply with their obligation to monitor and failed to properly investigate these doctors and these clinics before they sent their insured members there to get treatment," Eglet said.

A spokesman for Health Plan of Nevada said its deepest sympathies go out to the victims, but said Desai and his staff are the ones responsible for the outbreak.

"The criminal actions of Dr. Desai impacted many throughout the valley," said Tyler Mason, Vice President of Community Relations for Health Plan of Nevada.

Desai is accused of reusing vials and needles, his dangerous injection practices spreading hepatitis to patients who went to him for treatment.

"The entire community was duped here by an individual who fraudulently hid his activity and went against his Hippocratic oath to take care of folks," Mason said.

According to the HMOs, Desai managed to cover up his dangerous medical practices from state regulators, insurance providers and medical professionals.

The plaintiffs' attorneys said the HMOs are responsible for sending patients to get substandard care.

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