Etter v. Banner Health

On May 1, 2017, the Center, working with Phoenix-based law firm Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint PC, filed a class action in federal court against Banner Health for denying coverage of standard treatment for autism-related spectrum disorder to employees and their dependents who are covered by the health system’s insurance. The lawsuit against Banner Health, Banner Plan Administration, Inc., and Banner Health Master Health and Welfare Benefits Plan (collectively “Banner”) was filed on behalf of Micah and Laura Etter, their son, and other Banner employees and their dependents who are covered by the Banner’s self-funded health plan. The Etters’ complaint alleges that Banner has systematically denied coverage for Applied Behavioral Analysis (“ABA”) therapy claiming that the treatment is “experimental” or “investigative.” According to the lawsuit, Banner’s refusal to pay for ABA therapy is in direct conflict with generally accepted scientific studies and violates federal law, including the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 that prohibits special treatment limitations only imposed on mental health conditions.

Micah Etter, a resident and employee of Banner at Tucson’s University Medical Center, sought treatment for his child under Banner’s insurance plan and was denied coverage. After having exhausted the appeals process, Etter, along with his wife Laura, agreed to be the lead plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit representing current, past and future employees. The suit is asking the court to permanently bar Banner from denying coverage of autism therapy.

According to Center staff attorney Anne Ronan, “Banner is the largest nongovernmental employer in Arizona. It is our hope that this litigation will result in an increase in insurance coverage for its employees and set the standard for other large self funded companies.”

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