Conseco unit hit with class-action suit

July 9, 2008

By Chris O'Malley

A resident of Broward County, Fla., has filed a class-action lawsuit against a Conseco Inc. unit that allegedly failed to pay the maximum benefit for home health care insurance.

Anna M. Cohen, in the July 2 case in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, seeks more than $5 million in damages from Washington National Insurance Corp.

Cohen said Washington National denied the claim on grounds she reached the original $250,000 lifetime maximum benefit stated in her policy. However, the suit claims, the policy also provides for an 8-percent annual increase for all benefits.

Her attorney cited a 2007 case involving a nearly identical policy in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled, "it would be reasonable for an ordinary person to conclude that all benefits increase by 8 percent each year."

According to the suit, Washington National previously refunded premiums Cohen had paid after Feb. 22, when it took the position the lifetime maximum benefit had been reached.

It's unclear how many other Washington National customers could be considered part of the class. Many bought the policies at issue from Illinois-based Pioneer Life, which was folded into Washington National during a later merger.

Conseco spokesman James Rosensteele said, "We believe this suit is without merit and we intend to fully defend it."

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