On May 6, 2020, partner Alan Holcomb had a opinion piece on what Georgia lawyers and insurers should expect in the coming months as the nation continues to cope with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the piece, Alan explained that both public and private resources have been tested as a result of the pandemic and that millions of people have been affected.
Alan wrote: "The novel coronavirus . . . has caused hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, claimed thousands of lives and brought the world economy to its knees. The strength of medical and economic contingency plans has been thoroughly tested in places like New York City, Washington state, New Orleans and the state of Georgia." He explained that "Georgia has not been left 'unmarked' by the virus: more than 25,000 Georgians have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and there have been more than 1,000 COVID-19-related deaths."
Alan went on to note the effect the virus has had on the legal industry, writing "As with all business sectors, Georgia's legal community has been greatly affected by the virus and resulting lockdown: the number of personal injury filings has decreased; several law firms have cut employee compensation; and the court system has effectively been suspended since mid-March."
As the Georgia economy begins to re-open, Alan predicted a flood of new case filings, including civil rights filings related to delayed criminal jury trials, claims for improper health insurance benefit denials, and "whistleblower" filings related to various federal government stimulus packages.
As to improper health benefit claims, Alan wrote that COVID-19 -related treatment would lead to an increase in benefit claims that certain politicians and private health insurers have promised to cover at no additional cost to the insured. He noted, however, that there currently is no statutory enforcement mechanism available to enforce these promises and that there will be "significant ambiguity" as to which "insurers will cover these claims; the specific treatments that will be covered; and whether out-of-network treatment will be fully covered." He predicted a flood of improper benefit denial lawsuits as a result, stating that "ambiguity only creates more risk for health insurance companies, and it would serve them well to follow through on the promises previously made."
Alan also predicted an increase in "federal False Claims Act (whistleblower), kickback and bribery cases filed in Georgia" as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that was passed to flood the economy with $2 trillion of liquidity. Alan wrote that "as with any large-scale government action undertaken in a crisis, there will be businesses that fraudulently siphon public money for their own gain (e.g., claims related to the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program," and that the healthcare industry would be "under a microscope in this area, as other commentators have already raised concerns about these organizations wrongly obtaining grants through the CARES Act for improper purposes."
Alan concluded the article by predicting more chaos for the legal industry in the coming months, writing "as society begins to reopen, only time will tell whether the emergency measures taken by the federal government and state of Georgia effectively reduced the spread of the virus. In the near term, however, we can expect only more chaos - especially in the legal profession."
To read the article in its entirety, please visit The Daily Report at: Alan's Op-Ed.
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