Hospital ex-lobbyist loses appeal

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 25, 2012 - 7:31 PM

He had sued health plans and their industry group.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has delivered a blow to hospital executive-turned-critic David Feinwachs' legal fight against the state's major health plans and their industry group, affirming a lower court's ruling that the insurance companies were not responsible for getting him fired.

The court's opinion, issued Monday, found that the district court did not err when it ruled in December that "no genuine issue of material fact exists" about whether Feinwachs lost his job as general counsel and lobbyist with the Minnesota Hospital Association because of interference from health plan executives and the leader of the HMOs' trade association.

Feinwachs said he disagrees with the decision and the rationale, and he will talk to his attorneys about whether to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The lower court ruled that he must pay about $50,000 of the health plans' costs associated with the lawsuits, such as filing fees and costs related to depositions.

"I'm certainly disappointed," Feinwachs said. "In terms of moving on, I have no intention of doing anything different than I've done the last couple of years."

Feinwachs said he has not worked since losing his job with the Hospital Association on Nov. 9, 2010, for what association CEO Lawrence Massa called "blatant insubordination." But Feinwachs has testified before state and federal lawmakers challenging the way the state sets the rates it charges insurance companies to provide care to low-income, disabled and elderly Minnesotans.

That process is currently being scrutinized by federal officials in at least two investigations, though little is known about the nature of the cases. Congress has held high-profile hearings into the state's process as well, and Gov. Mark Dayton's administration has ordered an audit of the process.

For Feinwachs, the trouble started in February 2010 when he testified before a legislative committee urging more transparency and accountability of the state's insurance program for low-income people.

He went on to produce two videos with the backing of a providers' group that includes dentists, chiropractors and podiatrists, according to court documents.

The legislative comments and videos drew criticism from Julie Brunner, executive director of the trade group, the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, as well as the group's board chairman, Patrick Geraghty, then-CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and Mark Eustis, the CEO of Fairview Health Services.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's ruling that the complaints didn't lead to Feinwachs' termination and declined to address other issues, such as whether the interference was justified and whether the individual plans could be held liable.

"To the extent that there was interference with Feinwachs' employment relationship evidenced by these exchanges, it clearly did not account for his discharge," according to the opinion written by Judge Lawrence Collins.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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