Nursing home workers sue over insurance

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Two former nursing home employees may be headed to trial over what they say is their previous employer's failure to pay into a group health plan.

Kevin Nutt and Lisa Nutt sued Stafford Kees and Carroll County Nursing & Rehab Center Inc.; Osceola Nursing Home LLP; Osceola Therapy & Living Center Inc.; Osceola Healthcare PLLC; and Hope Healthcare LLC. Kees was the majority partner of Osceola Nursing Home.

Kevin Nutt says that when he was severely injured in March 2010, he and his wife presented all of his health insurance information with United Healthcare to relevant providers. United, however, said his health insurance was invalid due to non-payment.

The Nutts allege that their employer, Osceola Nursing Home, did not make payments to a group health plan while deducting pay to cover the premiums. They sued under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

On August 4, 2010, Kees' entities, including Osceola Nursing Home, were sold to Osceola Therapy and Living Center. When the Nutts said they asked their employer about the lapsed insurance coverage, they were told Kevin Nutt was not covered by any health insurance policy. He was fired Aug. 6; Lisa Nutt was fired Aug. 9 in what the couple calls retaliatory firing.

Of debate is who their employer actually was: While the Nutts say it was Carroll County, attorney Casey Castleberry said his clients deny the Nutts were their employees.

Castleberry represents Osceola Therapy & Living Center and Carroll County, and says there is no connection between the Nutts being let go and their healthcare claims.

A U.S. District Court in Arkansas said in March that the Nutts need to tell the court whether more discovery is needed, or whether a damages hearing could be set. A default judgment against Osceola Nursing Home was entered last year, but the court will ultimately decide whether the new owners are responsible.