You suffer injuries in a car accident. Paramedics arrive at the scene and carry you to the local hospital. When you arrive at the hospital, you provide your health insurance or Medicare information. You assume the bill is covered. Wrong. A few weeks later you receive a “hospital lien” in the mail. What?
Why is the hospital filing a lien against you and your car wreck claim? Why did the hospital refuse to bill your health insurance or Medicare? After all, you paid premiums (probably for years) for your health coverage. You paid premiums so you would have coverage when needed. I’ll tell you why the hospital refused to bill your insurance and filed a lien. Greed.
When you seek hospital treatment, the charges are inflated. Sometimes, they are greatly inflated. The hospital charges you inflated amounts knowing it will accept less (a reasonable amount) from health insurance. Look closely at your hospital lien paperwork! The hospital did NOT file a lien for the reasonable amount it always accepts from insurers or Medicare. No. The hospital filed a lien for the full, inflated charges. When you have an accident claim, Alabama law allows hospitals to file liens against your eventual settlement or recovery. Under existing Alabama law, the hospital has a right to collect those inflated amounts from any settlement of your car accident claim. So, hospitals often choose to file a lien rather than submit the bills to your health insurer.
This is unjust. If you have health insurance, you lose. You lose because you paid premiums for years. Then, you paid an inflated charge for your medical care. At our law firm, we deal with these issues on an almost daily basis. I’ve written several past posts on the unjust nature of hospital liens. You can read them here:
- Why Hospitals Charge Patients More In Automobile Injury Cases
- Are Hospitals Treating Accident Victims Differently?
- Five Bad Rules That Can Harm Your Alabama Car Accident Claim
The unjust situation with hospital liens is compounded by a few billboard lawyers who do nothing to help their clients with this situation. Some of those lawyers care little about the bottom-line their clients receive after satisfying all these unjust liens. They don’t try to negotiate down or defeat these liens when possible. That takes too much work for a guy promising a fast settlement. But, that’s another topic for another day.
The current hospital lien statute is unjust. Some hospitals (like those in Huntsville) aggressively assert liens in many situations. If you are hurt and have a personal injury claim, look for a lawyer who BOTH understands the lien law and works aggressively to maximize your recovery.
Maybe the Alabama Legislature will finally address this injustice. A Bill just introduced (2019 HB 11) in the Alabama House of Representative for 2019 seeks to amend the current hospital lien statute. I’ve read it. The Bill has broad support from many groups. Who opposes it? The hospitals, of course. So, we will see what happens. The Bill is simple. It does NOT abolish all hospital liens. It does NOT prevent hospitals from filing liens in all car accident or other injury cases. The Bill simply requires hospitals to submit the charges to the proper health insurer where the patient actually has health insurance. That’s exactly what hospitals should have been doing in the first place. If the charge is not covered by health insurance or the person is not insured, then the hospital can still file a lien to secure its payment. This proposal protects working men and women who pay for health insurance. This proposal protects many car accident victims from facing grossly inflated hospital liens in the midst of a serous injury. This proposal still allows hospitals to receive a normal payment for necessary medical treatment.
The Alabama Legislature should amend the hospital lien statute. If you want to help, call your legislator and ask him/her to support this effort. It’s time to put the interests of working men and women in Alabama ahead of groups (like hospitals) who lobby for special privileges.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we help people who have suffered serious accidents and injuries. From our office in Huntsville, we represent clients across Alabama. Outside the courtroom, we continue to advocate for safer roadways, safer workplaces and safer products.