AARP Must Face Charges Over Health Insurance Commissions, 9th Rules
The class action case against the AARP for unfair business practices related to selling its members Medigap insurance has been revived by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiff Jerald Friedman sued the AARP and United Health on behalf of all consumers for basically misleading the public into believing the AARP was providing the insurance, and specifically in California where the AARP is not licensed to do so.
The case had previously been dismissed by a federal court for not having specific enough allegations that showed an entitlement to court ordered relief. The Ninth Circuit, however, thought differently, and reversed the decision, allowing the case to continue.
Details of the Case
The allegations in this case can be somewhat confusing as it involves corporate licensing of branded marketing materials for a highly regulated industry. To summarize: The AARP licenses their intellectual property, like their trademarked name, logo, and slogans, to United Health. United Health then uses the AARP's brand-name to solicit insurance sales from AARP members.
The AARP then receives a percentage-based "royalty" for signups. The "royalty" is allegedly for the licensing of the intellectual property. The lawsuit contends that the "royalty" is in actuality a "commission" which would thus require the AARP to be licensed as an insurance provider or agent. Additionally, the lawsuit claims this is a deceptive business practice as it tricks consumers.
In dismissing the case, the lower court relied on the fact that the AARP and United Health disclosed to consumers that the AARP was not an insurance provider or agent. Additionally, it found compelling that the AARP did not have any means of accepting insurance applications, specifically, there was no online application through the AARP.
In reversing the decision, the 9th Circuit found it more compelling that on the health insurance solicitation marketing materials were clear, specific, bolded statements indicating the materials were insurance solicitations. Furthermore, the 9th Circuit found that the allegations concerning the royalty really being a commission were alleged specifically enough.
Because the case was dismissed on a motion to dismiss, which occurs very early on in the litigation process, and just now was reversed, the case still has a long way to go before it is over. The plaintiff is seeking class action status so that the case can resolve the claims of every Californian deceived into thinking they were getting AARP insurance.
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