Kenseth v. Dean Health Plan, Inc., No. 11-1560 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
In 1987, Kenseth underwent surgical gastric banding, covered by her insurer. About 18 years later Dr. Huepenbecker, advised another operation for severe acid reflux and other problems resulting from the first surgery. Her employer provided insurance through Dean, a physician-owned integrated healthcare system, specifically excluding coverage for “surgical treatment or hospitalization for the treatment of morbid obesity” and services related to a non-covered benefit or service. Plan literature refers coverage questions to the customer service department. Huepenbecker worked at a Dean-owned clinic, scheduled surgery at a Dean-affiliated hospital, and instructed Kenseth to call her insurer. Kenseth spoke with a customer service representative, who stated that Dean would cover the procedure. After the surgery, Dean declined coverage. Kenseth was readmitted for complications. Dean denied coverage for the second hospitalization. Kenseth pursued internal appeals to obtain payment of the $77,974 bill before filing suit under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1001, and Wisconsin law. The district court granted Dean summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as to estoppel and pre-existing condition claims, but remanded concerning breach of fiduciary duty. After the district court again entered summary judgment for Dean, the Supreme Court decided Cigna v. Amara, clarifying relief available for a breach of fiduciary duty in an ERISA action. The Seventh Circuit remanded, stating that Kenseth has a viable claim for equitable relief.