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Boeing Faces ERISA Suit Linked to Autism Coverage

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Los Angeles, CAA class-action lawsuit has been filed against The Boeing Co., alleging the company violated ERISA laws by not including certain coverage for autistic dependents. The lawsuit alleges Boeing breached its fiduciary duties under ERISA benefits laws by refusing to include specific autism therapy in its coverage.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are two Boeing employees whose sons have autism spectrum disorder. At issue is the refusal of the company to include applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy to treat children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The plaintiffs call Boeing’s practice, “discriminatory.”

“Boeing excludes coverage of ABA treatment for ASD from the Plan even when medically necessary,” court documents allege. The plaintiffs claim Boeing does not state that it excludes applied behavior analysis from its plan, but uses internal policies and restricted provider networks to do so.

“For example, Boeing’s non-mental health claims administrator, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), imposes an internal, hidden exclusion of ABA therapy coverage,” the lawsuit states. Ultimately, because Boeing does not contract with providers who deliver applied behavior analysis therapy, beneficiaries are unable to access those services. Plaintiffs argue that amounts to a breach of fiduciary duties.

The lawsuit seeks to represent individuals who are or will be Washington state participants or beneficiaries under The Boeing Master Welfare Plan on or after October 3, 2009 and have, are or will be in need of applied behavior analysis for autism spectrum disorder.

As a result of Boeing not covering applied behavior analysis, the plaintiffs allege they have had to pay out of pocket for treatment. Other plaintiffs have alleged they had to forgo the treatment because they could not afford it. The lawsuit seeks recovery for losses incurred as a result of Boeing’s refusal to cover the therapy and a requirement that Boeing include coverage for applied behavior analysis in its plan.

In April 2013, a federal judge ordered Blue Cross to pay Michigan families for denying them applied behavioral analysis therapy. The judge found that the company’s claims that the therapy was experimental were “contrary to the medical evidence,” according to Michigan Radio (4/3/13).

The Washington lawsuit is C.S. et al. v. The Boeing Company Master Welfare Plan et al., case number 2:14-cv-00574, in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington.

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