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CCS Oncology drops lawsuit against Independent Health

CCS Oncology has dropped a lawsuit against Independent Health that accused the insurer of causing irreparable economic harm when it removed the oncology practice from its network.

CCS, which brought the lawsuit in State Supreme Court last November before it moved to federal court, has voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was withdrawn without prejudice, which means the suit can be refiled, said Paul G. Joyce, an attorney with Colucci & Gallaher who represents CCS. He declined further comment, referring other questions to the practice.

Dr. W. Sam Yi, the CEO and executive medical director of CCS, declined comment through a spokesman.

Independent Health said in a statement that it did not pay a settlement to CCS as part of the dismissal.

“Throughout this legal process it has been our unwavering contention that we followed all regulatory and contractual requirements for the non-renewal of these physician contracts," said Frank Sava, an Independent Health spokesman.

CCS withdrew the lawsuit in August. The dismissal has not previously been reported.

The lawsuit was a reaction to Independent Health's decision in June 2016 to drop CCS Oncology from its insurance network as of Dec. 31. The decision by the region's second-largest insurance company affected 22 CCS oncologists, along with 600 Independent Health members in active treatment as well as about 1,400 inactive patients.

CCS, which at one time had one-third of the region's outpatient oncology market, contended in the lawsuit that Independent Health's actions drove away patients and doctors and “demonstrate an egregious disrespect towards the cancer-diagnosed public.”

CCS Oncology lawsuit accuses insurer of driving away patients

Among other claims, CCS argued the insurer violated a provision of federal law that prohibits discrimination in health care by insurers, violated a provision of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits excluding an individual from health insurance for a pre-existing condition and violated CCS physicians’ rights to advocate on behalf of their patients as guaranteed under New York Public Health Law.

CCS wanted Independent Health to reverse its decision and to send letters to all of the patients, CCS doctors and network doctors notifying them that CCS will be included in the insurer's network for 2017.

CCS also sought a temporary injunction that would have required Independent Health to continue to cover the 2,000 patients while the suit proceeds. That request was denied.

Independent Health had said it acted reasonably in declining to renew its contract with the CCS Oncology physicians after 16 months of negotiation over a new reimbursement model for the practice.

CCS had pursued a high-profile campaign to persuade Independent Health to bring the practice back into its network. The practice had bought ads in The Buffalo News and had lobbied in Albany to pressure the insurer. CCS also called a news conference with elected officials and patients to emphasize the importance of Independent Health and CCS mending their differences.

CCS turns to Albany in fight to win back Independent Health

At the same time, however, Yi in the spring acknowledged to The News that federal authorities are investigating CCS Oncology for possible billing irregularities. And there is a whistleblower civil suit against CCS that includes allegations that staff provided and billed for unnecessary treatments, according to a source familiar with the complaint who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Feds probe CCS Oncology; whistleblower claims billing fraud

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