When you have to go to the hospital after suffering severe injuries in a car accident, it’s critical that you are seen by the necessary medical professionals right away. There isn’t time to verify your health insurance to ensure you have the required coverage to pay for the care you need.
According to New York law §2805-B, “Every general hospital which maintains facilities for providing out-patient emergency medical care must provide such care to any person who, in the opinion of a physician, requires such care.”
In other words, it’s unlawful for a hospital to turn you away after a severe accident because you are unable to pay for healthcare services.
If you don’t have health insurance and can’t pay for services rendered, what happens?
Hospital Liens Explained
A hospital may issue a lien so that the facility can provide you with medical care, even if you’re uninsured. A lien ensures that the hospital will be able to bill you for services rendered so that if you receive a legal award, the hospital is then entitled to a portion of that compensation.
A lien connects to your personal injury claim, which provides the hospital with the right to claim a portion of a settlement or verdict obtained from the negligent party or their insurance company. Usually, a lien will be sent as a notice to you after you receive care.
Keep in mind that the lien must be satisfied out of your personal injury settlement before receiving any compensation awarded in the settlement.
You may only receive a lien on your personal injury claim if the facility provided you with treatment during the first 72 hours after your injury-sustaining accident. Liens can carry over between hospitals.
It is also possible for a lien to be attached to any of the following:
- Court judgments
- Insurance settlements
- Workers’ compensation claims
- Federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ act claims
- Federal Employees Liability Act claims
Hospital Liens Aren’t Always Applied Fairly
In some cases, hospitals choose to send liens directly to patients rather than billing insurance companies. More often than not, professional medical facilities are contractually obligated to provide significant discounts on healthcare to insurance companies. However, these facilities are not required to provide discounts when submitting liens directly on patients’ settlements, which means they stand to lose a lot of money by billing insurance companies rather than their patients.
Sometimes, the difference between the two prices can be astounding. To better understand this concept, consider this real-life example: Monica Smith experienced severe injuries in a car accident. She made sure to provide her insurance information when the ambulance came to pick her up. She spent three days in the hospital and was in a neck brace for weeks.
However, her insurance company (in this case, Medicaid) never received any bills from the hospital. If they had, Medicaid would have been required to pay for her treatment in full. However, that’s not what happened. Instead, the hospital chose to place a lien on Smith’s accident settlement for an amount five times higher than the amount the facility was entitled to from Medicaid.
The amount of the lien placed on her settlement was $12,856. Sending the bill to Medicaid meant the facility would only have been able to charge $2,500 for services rendered.
Unfortunately, “The practice of bypassing insurers to pursue full charges from accident victims’ settlements has become routine in major health systems across the country, court records and interviews show. It is most lucrative when used against low-income patients with Medicaid, which tends to pay lower reimbursement rates than private health plans.”
What To Do If You Receive a Hosptial Lien After An Accident
If you receive a medical lien from the hospital that issued care after your injury-sustaining accident, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation right away. While it may be possible to try and negotiate a compromise settlement with the lien holder, it is often challenging to obtain a favorable outcome on your own.
Skilled car accident attorneys are highly experienced in hospital lien issues and know the right things to say and do to fight for your rights. Legal professionals have the knowledge and resources necessary to successfully fight back against unreasonable hospital liens. In addition, the right lawyer will be able to determine whether or not the lien is valid.
Ignoring the Lien is Not an Option
While it may seem simple enough to ignore the medical lien, this is not a good idea. Doing so can result in a lawsuit against you and your attorney. In addition, your rights to future health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits will be put at significant risk. Failing to satisfy a lien may also mean you are breaking the law, which can result in criminal charges.
We’re Ready and Prepared to Help You
If you find yourself facing a hospital lien following a car accident injury that wasn’t your fault, it’s critical to seek legal representation right away. It’s in your best interest to have your attorney begin working with you and the hospital immediately to negotiate a discount so that you have every possible chance to satisfy the charges you must pay. Your lawyer may even be able to clear the lien altogether if he or she finds that it is invalid.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to our office right away with any questions you may have.
Call the New York lawyers at The Ahearne Law Firm, PLLC today at (845) 763-4100 to speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your case.