By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On November 30, 2022, a group of former Walgreens workers filed a proposed class action in Florida federal court that accuses the pharmacy chain of sending confusing, incomplete COBRA notices. The former employees sued, saying the company purposely sent former employees “haphazard and piecemeal” information about their rights to continued insurance coverage under the federal COBRA law to save itself money.
As a result, the lawsuit claims, they lost access to their medical coverage when they were terminated and, therefore, had to pay out-of-pocket to cover medical expenses.
Details of the Class Action.
The plaintiffs filed the class action complaint against Walgreens Co. in the United States District Court Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This federal law provides details on what employer-sponsored health plans must do.
The plaintiffs claim they were all terminated from Walgreens between 2018 and 2020 for reasons not related to gross misconduct, they said in their complaint. After their termination, they received COBRA notices that are required to be written in a manner that an average plan participant could understand. However, rather than receiving one document clearly outlining that information on their post-employment COBRA benefits, they received multiple separately mailed documents that lacked critical information, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims the first notice failed to include an address indicating where COBRA payments should be mailed. “It also fails to explain how to enroll in COBRA, nor does it bother including a physical election form,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit states that a second notice contained some but not all of the required information.
The insufficient COBRA notices confused and misled the plaintiffs and caused them economic injuries in the form of lost health insurance and informational injuries, they claim.
Similar Suits Against Walgreens.
Because similar lawsuits alleging deficient COBRA notices have been filed against Walgreens before, the pharmacy chain was aware that its notices were inconsistent with the Department of Labor’s model, alleged the workers. Therefore, they claim its choice to use a non-compliant notice was in “deliberate or reckless disregard” of the workers’ rights.
The plaintiffs seek to represent a class of all Walgreens health care plan participants and beneficiaries who were sent similar COBRA notices during the applicable statute of limitations period and did not elect to continue coverage.
The plaintiffs seek reinstatement of their right to coverage, damages, fees, and costs. Click here to read the complaint.
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Edwards, Jesse. “Walgreens class action claims company fails to provide legal COBRA notices.” Top Class Actions. (December 5, 2022). Web.
Freedman, Emily. “Walgreens Provides Deficient COBRA Notices, Suit Says.” Law360. (December 1, 2022). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.
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