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The Louisiana State Capitol. 

Some members opposed a Louisiana Association of Health Plans lawsuit challenging state-ordered emergency mandates affecting insurers during the coronavirus pandemic, with two companies dropping out of the organization in protest.

The vote held this week was split, with at least three members — Aetna, Humana and WellCare — publicly opposing the lawsuit in statements.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, the largest health insurer in the state, and United, both members of the organization, deferred comment on the lawsuit to the Louisiana Association of Health Plans.

"While we have some concerns about the mandates the state is putting in place, we do not support pursuing litigation during a national pandemic," CVS Health Co., which owns Aetna, said in a statement Tuesday about its decision to drop out of the trade group.

"We feel strongly that now is not the time to take legal action against the Louisiana Department of Insurance," Humana said in a statement Wednesday. "Although we are longtime members and supporters of LAHP, we want to make clear that in this instance, the association does not speak unanimously on behalf of its members," Humana said, noting it remains a member of the group.

Wellcare Health Plans canceled its membership and resigned its seat on the board of directors this week in protest. 

"Our top priority is to ensure the health of our members and the communities in which they live and work, and we believe in working collaboratively with the state during these unprecedented times," the company said in a statement Wednesday. "The controversial decision by LAHP to pursue this litigation does not align with our mission or values."

Based on information on its website, other members of the Louisiana Association of Health Plans include Peoples Health, MultiPlan, Cigna, EqHealth Solutions, Healthy Blue and Vantage Health.

The trade association declined to discuss the breakdown of the vote.

The organization is challenging the constitutionality of the Louisiana Department of Insurance's use of emergency orders during the pandemic. The department is requiring insurance companies to pay for COVID-19 testing, expands telemedicine access, stops insurers from canceling policies for non-payment of premiums until May, forces companies to pay for medical care, such as diagnostic testing, and prohibits the use of "step therapy" procedures that insurers use to control costs by getting doctors to first try lower-priced medications before prescribing higher-cost drugs.

The association has said it doesn't oppose all the mandates, but claims in its lawsuit that certain orders will increase costs for insurers and potentially force companies to violate their reinsurance agreements if they pay for claims without collecting premiums. 

The lawsuit was filed with the state's division of administrative law. An administrative law judge will schedule a hearing and issue a decision on the dispute. The division is closed and expects to open again on May 4, but hearings are being conducted over the phone during the state's stay-at-home order to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

The emergency orders also basically stop insurance companies from moving forward with planned rate increases and may lead to "cash flow problems for insurers whose reserves are tied up in securities and stock that have lost enormous value in the last few weeks," the lawsuit says.


Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.