Lawyers settled a $20 million lawsuit yesterday that had been brought by a woman claiming Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland refused to pay for a test that might have diagnosed an aneurysm which left her partly paralyzed.
The settlement was reached yesterday evening, according to Mike Streissguth, a Blue Cross spokesman. The terms of the settlement, which were not disclosed, were expected to be filed with Circuit Judge Norris Byrnes this morning.
Last night's settlement followed the opening day of the case in Baltimore County Circuit Court in which Nancy N. Biddison, a state employee, accused the state's largest health insurer of refusing to pay for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test in 1990.
The $1,200 test had been ordered by her doctor to help diagnose her severe headaches, but according to the lawsuit, Blue Cross refused to authorize it. Ms. Biddison, employed in a clerical job at the University of Maryland College Park, did not have the test because, she claimed, she could not afford it. Six months later, in March 1991, her condition still undiagnosed, the aneurysm in her brain ruptured and she suffered a debilitating stroke.
Ms. Biddison, a Woodbine resident, testified about her case in September 1992 before a U.S. Senate subcommittee examining management practices and finances of the Maryland Blues.
Her case raised central questions about the rights and responsibilities of those who buy health insurance as well as the behavior of insurance companies that manage health care for their customers.
In this case, Ms. Biddison's indemnity plan was handled by a special team at Blue Cross in charge of state employees' claims. Lawyers for Blue Cross indicated in court yesterday that they would argue that Ms. Biddison should have taken responsibility for her own health and obtained on her own the MRI suggested by her doctor.
"You can't abandon your own right to safety for your own health because an insurance company won't authorize prepayment for your claims," Philip B. Tamburello, attorney for Blue Cross, said during a hearing on motions.