Injured and facing mounting hospital bills? If you find yourself in this situation, the medical bills and charges can be confusing and overwhelming. You probably have many questions. What are my actual medical charges? Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell. How much did my health insurance pay? Why is the hospital charging ten dollars for a single aspirin? None of it makes sense to most patients.
Our medical system suffers from a lack of consistency and lack of transparency in charges. I recently read a great article on LinkedIn that asks the question — Can Price Transparency Actually Lower Health Care Costs? The article discusses several issues, including surprise charges, price gouging and health insurer discounts. The author concludes it’s a “money game” of different prices for different people. This is certainly true for personal injury victims who often suffer the worst impacts of unfair and inconsistent medical costs.
Hospitals attempt to take advantage of personal injury victims for maximum profit. From the moment a personal injury victim enters a hospital, the unjust process begins. Why is the hospital admissions clerk so interested in whether the other driver is at-fault or has car insurance? Hospital greed, that’s why. The same is true for some clinics, chiropractors and physical therapy offices.
Because medical bills following a personal injury can be confusing, I’ve written several articles on the issue. Many of these articles provide tips and advice about handling your bills following an accident in Alabama.
How does the problem with price transparency and price consistency impact personal injury victims in Alabama? Here are four ways:
1. Hospital Liens That Gouge Alabama Patients
In the moments after a car crash, paramedics arrive. They carry you to a local hospital. A few days or weeks after your hospital visit, you receive official notice of a hospital lien. The hospital files a lien against you! Whether you have health insurance or not, you receive a lien notice. The hospital wants ALL the money for its SUPER-inflated charges out of your Alabama car accident settlement. For years, Alabama law allowed this injustice.
I’ve written several past articles about the injustice of hospital liens in Alabama. Hospitals treat accident victims differently, even refusing to collect from normal health insurance. Here are a few of my past articles:
- Alabama Legislature Addresses Hospital Lien Injustice.
- Proposed Alabama Legislation Would Correct Hospital Lien Injustice.
- Why Hospitals Charge Patients More In Automobile Injury Cases.
- Are Hospitals Treating Accident Victims Differently?
This summer, the Alabama Legislature addressed the injustice of hospitals filing liens against people who have private health insurance. Now, hospitals must first bill the health insurance company. That’s a step in the right direction for people who are insured. Yet, it does nothing for uninsured people who are subjected to grossly inflated medical charges. If we required consistency in medical charges, hospitals would not be allowed to price medical care arbitrarily high for people who are either uninsured or are the victims of a personal injury.
2. Subrogation Issues That Pick Your Pocket
Health insurance. Medicare. Medicaid. Tricare. Want to know more about the issue of medical bills in a car accident case? You can read this article I wrote a couple years ago titled, Hurt In A Car Accident? How Are My Medical Bills Handled?
Each type of payer has certain reimbursement rights if you recover money in your personal injury claim. If you suffered a serious injury, you need a skilled attorney who understands these issues. A skilled attorney can often save you tremendous money. At our office, we take subrogation law seriously. We believe lawyers should work to save their clients every dollar possible.
Too many lawyers simply accept every demand for repayment by any health insurer. These unskilled or uncaring lawyers give away too much of your settlement money. It’s wrong and it’s a common practice by the many billboard lawyers who refuse to fight for their clients.
3. Provider Offices That Bill The Wrong Payer
Bill the wrong payer? What does that mean. Some hospitals and clinics have very skilled billing professionals. These professionals know which provider pays the most. Too often, the billing professional pushes you into the wrong system. Here are some examples. One, a clinic bills Blue Cross rather than work comp for your work-related injury because Blue Cross pays faster. Later, at trial, this may impact the likelihood you win your case. Two, a chiropractor or physical therapist forces you to sign an agreement allowing them to collect money directly from your car accident settlement instead of billing Blue Cross. It may not seem like a big deal but it is. Why? They want the highest payment. They see an opportunity to make you pay more than everyone else. That impacts your net recovery tremendously. Horribly, we even have a few television lawyers in Alabama who secretly work with these clinics to take more of your settlement proceeds.
4. Unfair Laws That Penalize Victims With Insurance
Two people suffer identical injuries. Both go to the same hospital and receive the same treatment. The hospital bills each of them the same amount. At least the charges are consistent at this point. But, one of the two accident victims has health insurance which pays his bill. Of course, the health insurance company gets to pay a reduced amount in satisfaction of the bill. The other accident victim has no health insurance. Both accident victims file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent drivers who caused their injuries. In both cases, the injury victims put their medical bills into evidence before the jury. Here is where the person with health insurance is penalized. In his case, the defense lawyers get to tell the jury the lower amount for which the bills were actually satisfied. The jury in that case hears a lower number. The person with health insurance is penalized.
When The System Lacks Consistency And Transparency You Need An Attorney Who Works To Maximize Every Dollar You Can Recover
In personal injury cases, you want to recover justly for your damages. But, you don’t want to pursue a claim just to pay everyone else. When you receive compensation for your injuries, you want to keep as much of it as possible. That means working with someone who understands medical subrogation / reimbursement issues. It can be complex and challenging. But, the steps you take can tremendously impact both the amount of your initial settlement as well as the net amount of that settlement you ultimately keep for yourself.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we only handle personal injury and damage claims. From our office in Huntsville, we represent personal injury clients across Alabama. Our goal is simple — Prepare every case to recover the maximum amount possible for our clients.