A Growing Number of Hospitals Are Using Liens to Make Money Off of Patients
A car accident is a traumatic experience that victims will continue to suffer from long after their visible wounds have healed. Courts, recognizing the turmoil one endures in such an event, often award the victim a settlement to compensate for their property damages, medical bills, physical injuries, and emotional distress. However, too frequently, hospitals intercept these settlements before they can make it into the hands of the victim.
The New York Times recently reported on the growing prevalence of hospitals profiting off of car accident victims. Hospitals do so by placing a lien on the patient’s case settlement – even when the patient has insurance to afford their care.
What Are Liens?
Liens are claims made on an individual’s assets in order to ensure a repayment of debt. They can be placed on homes, or, in most accident cases, settlement payments.
Origins of the Lien Law
Hospital lien laws were introduced in the earlier half of the 20th century at a time when few Americans had health insurance. The liens were intended to entice doctors to treat patients who were unable to pay upfront by promising them access to the money in another way.
Now, in the 21st century, the practice has grown rampant. Despite more Americans being insured, hospitals are continuing to use liens in order to make more money.
How Liens Make Hospitals More Money
When billing departments pursue liens instead of charging a patient’s insurance provider, they can withhold discounts typically offered to these companies. As such, they can upcharge the cost of care to the patient.
This practice has been especially prevalent amongst Medicaid patients. In one case, a bill of $2,500 – which would have been covered completely by Medicaid – became a $12,856 lien placed on the patient’s settlement.
North Carolina Law
The laws governing a hospital’s use of liens varies by state. In North Carolina, hospitals are allowed to file liens if:
- You suffered an injury requiring medical care, but did not have insurance
- You suffered an injury requiring medical care, but your insurance did not pay
- The hospital chooses to seek payment from your settlement
Liens can be used to cover outstanding costs for:
- Ambulance transportation
- Physician services
- Nurse services
- Dental services
- Hospital attention
- Hospital services
- Drugs and medication
- Medical supplies
These liens can go directly to your settlement without first charging your insurance, therefore diminishing the sum you can expect to receive.
If you or a loved one have recently been involved in a car accident, contact Dewey, Ramsay & Hunt, P.A. We will fight to protect your rights and your access to the compensation you deserve. Call today for your free consultation: (704) 377-3737.