UnitedHealth building exterior UnitedHealth, the largest insurer in the country, has clashed with physician staffing firms as part of an industrywide back-and-forth on how to address surprise medical billing.

Five New York emergency room physician groups on Monday filed a federal lawsuit alleging that UnitedHealth Group and Multiplan conspired to underpay out-of-network providers.

The group of staffing firms, all of which are out of network for UnitedHealthcare, claim that the insurer and Multiplan worked together using Multiplan’s Data iSight platform to set their own “reasonable” rates for out-of-network claims, which undercut payments to the doctors. The physicians added that they were undercut affected the COVID-19 pandemic, when they were putting their lives at risk to treat patients. A number of the instances cited in the lawsuit occurred in 2020.

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