Medical Bills

If you have health insurance

To begin with, if a person is injured in Iowa and has health insurance such as Blue Cross Blue Shield or United, the medical bills should typically just be turned into that company for payment.  This is what health insurance is for and they are generally initially responsible for payment of the medical bills whether the injuries were caused by someone else or not.   Once a health insurance company has paid however, if the injured person subsequently recovers from another party who caused the accident that led to the injury, that company will typically assert what is called a subrogation lien against the settlement or verdict.  So for example, if Blue Cross paid $10,000 for medical bills and State Farm insured the driver who caused the crash, part of any settlement or verdict against the driver will be for that lien and will have to be paid back to Blue Cross Blue Shield. And this makes sense to, if someone caused the injuries, why should you or your insurance company be stuck with the bill?  

You might ask, why doesn’t State Farm just pay the bills from the beginning?  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Well insurance companies aren’t in the business of being nice.  Liability insurance carriers such as auto insurance companies will typically only remit payment one time for an injury claim that includes payment for everything i.e. medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, disability, scarring, a consortium claim, loss of full use of you mind and body, etc.  They certainly can, but are not required by law to (and therefore typically will not) pay the medical bills as they are incurred.  There are many reason for this. 
To begin with, it is easier for the insurance company to just write one check than to keep track of paying 15 or 20 or more medical providers over the course of a long period of time that could be a year or more.  But doesn’t this put a severe financial strain on an injured person? Absolutely but it is not the auto insurance company’s problem and they don’t care.  Also and very importantly, it puts people under pressure to settle earlier and for less money, especially if they do not have insurance and the medical bill are quickly adding up. As we will talk a little more about below, if someone is getting bills for say $50,000 or $100,000, doesn’t have insurance and is getting threatened with collection actions or lawsuits, he or she oftentimes just takes any offer that the insurance company makes to get the bill collectors off of their back.   This is exactly what an insurance company wants and a big reason why they don’t want you to have an accomplished claimant’s attorney on your side.  The big insurance companies often save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in this fashion.  The earlier an insurance company settles, the better it is for the insurance company because they can get out of payment for additional and future medical bills, ongoing and future pain an differing, ongoing future lost wages, and even payment for a disability if it is not yet know that an injury will be permanent.  This is why if you have health insurance, it is typically best to just let it pay all the bills and then the responsible insurance company can pay them back  when the time is right.

If you have Medicare or Medicaid

This is similar to if you have health insurance.  It is general, if you are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, those programs with cover your medical bills even while an insurance claim or lawsuit is pending.  Now, it needs to be noted that dealing with the government, especially the federal government, is an arduous process.  That is what you are dealing with if Medicare or Medicaid is paying your bills.  And while it is certainly beneficial to have your bills paid and not outstanding for a long period of time, having Medicare and Medicaid involved will slow down the claim and settlement process substantially.  This is particularly true if you do not have a legal team on your side that knows how to deal with these programs and gets them to stay on top of a claim as much as possible.  And it is extremely important that the government is paid back appropriately as if they are not properly accounted for, this can affect your eligibility for coverage and programs in the future.

For these reasons, if a family is financially well off or independent, there are some circumstances where it is at least worth considering paying your bills yourself instead of letting the government do it even if you are eligible if you know you have a meritorious claim and the payment.  This can substantially speed up the settlement process in some sentences.  But once again, a proper course of action can only be charted, especially when the injuries are severe with the proper legal team behind you.

If you don’t have any health insurance or similar coverage 

If you don’t have any coverage, all is not lost!  While your medical bills are not likely to be paid during the course of treatment, there are steps that can be taken to protect you.  First, if an injured party can pay for the bills, it might make sense to do so as you will get reimbursed once the claim is resolved.  However for most folks, it is not feasible to simply scratch a check to cover thousands of dollars of doctor’s bills.  If this is the case, a number of things can be done to protect you. While every step that can be taken is beyond the scope of this discussion, the following things can be sometimes be effective to buy time while a claim is pending:
  • Put a hold on an account if the hospital or provider allows and agrees
  • Begin a payment plan
  • Obtain a loan
  • Consider lawsuit financing
All of these options can be explored n your behalf by the right legal team.  And every situation requires a different approach.  However, just rest assured that all is not lost if the bill are piling up and you have a good injury claim but don’t feel like you can wait for settlement. There is plan to deal with the medical bills that can help, you just have to find.

Lastly, it is also important to highlight that a experienced claimants attorney can also negotiate outstanding bills and liens on your behalf at the same time or after they are negotiate settlement with the responsible party.  You can saved thousand or more on what is paid to third parties if it is properly addressed.  This is another extremely valuable benefit of retaining the right attorney  as any savings obtained on your behalf  goes straight into your pocket.