The 8th Circuit panel held that a “cross-plan offsetting” effort is too far away from the language in the UnitedHealth health plan documents reviewed to be allowed through use of UnitedHealth’s discretionary clauses. (Photo: Thinkstock)

A three-judge panel at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says UnitedHealth Group Inc.‘s insurance carrier units must put clear warnings in the health plan documents if they want to combine different health plans when trying to recover overpayments from the providers.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) gives a health plan discretion to interpret plan provisions, the panel acknowledged in its ruling.

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