Patient, former HMO president testify in hepatitis C trial - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Patient, former HMO president testify in hepatitis C trial

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

As the civil trial against HMO Health Plan of Nevada in connection with Nevada's hepatitis C outbreak continues, one of Dr. Dipak Desai's patients gave emotional testimony on the stand.

Bonnie Brunson contracted the virus in 2005 and is suing the HMO for negligence. Desai is the doctor at the center of the largest hepatitis C outbreak in U.S. history.

Brunson told jurors of the embarrassment she felt when she contracted the lifelong disease. She also said she suffered intolerable pain and bad side effects from treatments.

"I was so shocked, embarrassed and just so confused when I found out I had this disease," Brunson told the court. "This was a disease mainly for those who injected drugs or had multiple sex partners."

The former president of Health Plan of Nevada also took the stand and defended the HMO. Jon Bunker told jurors he valued quality healthcare. Robert Eglet, who represents the insurers suing the Health Plan of Nevada, disagrees.

"He and HPN's primary concern was making money," said Eglet. "It was not the health and welfare of their insured members."

Eglet said the HMO knew about Desai's risky colonoscopy procedures for decades but kept him in its network because he was the lowest bidder.

"We are going to hold everyone who was responsible accountable in our community," said Eglet.

Health Plan of Nevada attorney Peter Bernhard claimed Desai is the only one to blame. He said the plaintiffs are the ones who are money-driven, saying they already won a multimillion dollar settlement from international drug maker Teva Pharmaceuticals last year.

"Health Plan of Nevada (wouldn't) be a defendant in this case if it did not have resources," said Bernhard. "The attorneys know there's no point in going through lengthy trials against people or companies that don't have money to pay them."

Bernhard added jurors won't hear about the Teva settlement or Desai's criminal charges because of rules established before the trial began.

"We don't think the jury will be hearing the complete story," said Bernhard.

Health Plan of Nevada said if it loses this civil trial it could mean higher healthcare costs for insured members. This trial is expected to last weeks.

Desai is facing criminal charges. His trial is scheduled for April. Earlier this week, a judge denied Desai's attorney's request to delay the trial because of Desai's health.

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