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Then the airline’s health insurance plan demanded that he repay the $66,800 it had spent on his medical care. McCutchen, who lived about 40 miles from U.S. Airways headquarters in Pittsburgh, refused to pay, saying it wasn’t fair to give that money back because he had not been fully compensated for his injuries. "He was a great guy who had worked for the company forever," said his lawyer, Jon Perry. "He was catastrophically injured. I asked the health plan if they could cut him a break and they said no." A federal appeals court ruled for McCutchen, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 reversed, siding with U.S. Airways, which later merged with American Airlines.The case didn't involve the Rawlings Group. In its ruling, the court said as long as a health plan’s contract with employees specifies that it is to be reimbursed for medical costs in such situations, it has a legal right to collect – whether it's fair to the employee or not. McCutchen's widow, Janet, said in an interview that they had never heard of subrogation, and had always thought they had great coverage from his employer. She said she thought it was unfair to make the couple reimburse U.S. Airways because most of the compensation came from an under-insured motorist policy that they — not U.S. Airways — paid for. Employers and their collection companies say such reimbursements are vital to contain costs, preserve plan assets and keep benefits affordable at a time of escalating costs. They say that allowing recovery of medical expenses that are the fault of third parties – such as bad drivers – allows employers and unions to offer self-funded health plans. Plaintiff lawyers, and some legal scholars, say that is poppycock.
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