Opening arguments are under way in the case against a HMO linked to Southern Nevada's hepatitis C outbreak. Health Plan of Nevada is accused of sending two women to a clinic owned by Dr. Dipak Desai where they contracted the virus in 2005.
In his opening statements, attorney Robert Eglet told jurors Desai had a long history of misdiagnosing patients, changing medical records and performing hasty colonoscopy procedures.
"They knew this," said Eglet. "They knew this was going on. They knew it for years. They were claiming it was hidden from them. It wasn't hidden from them. It was open and obvious."
Eglet claims Health Plan of Nevada failed to investigate Desai because the health insurance company wanted to save money.
"They went back to him because he was the lowest bidder," said Eglet. "They could get his prices for less money. They didn't care about the quality of their patients and their members."
But attorneys for the Health Plan of Nevada argue Desai not only deceived his patients but them.
"There is no role for an insurer to interfere with the doctor and patient relationship," said attorney Peter Bernhard. "He was the Bernie Madoff of medicine who was deceiving his own patients."
The HMO's attorney claims the lawsuit is being filed for all the wrong reasons.
"You can't have lawyers who go forward and say the pharmaceuticals are liable," said Bernhard. "Then say they really weren't that bad after you've secured tens of millions of dollars from them. It's now the provider network for whatever reason and they are a bigger target for their pockets."
On Thursday, the attorneys for Health Plan of Nevada are expected to provide their opening statements. Jurors were told the trial could last three months.
Desai is facing separate criminal charges for reusing vials and surgical equipment that resulted in the outbreak. He says he has done nothing wrong.
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