Lien On Me – When You’re Not Strong: The Medical Provider Lien
Lien On Me – When You’re Not Strong:
The Medical Provider Lien
By Parag Bhosale
When you’ve been in an accident involving a personal injury and have begun medical treatment, you may expect that the other party’s insurance will pay your medical expenses. This is true – and false. Your injuries may be covered by the other party’s insurance, but first they may have to be handled with a medical provider lien.
What is a medical provider lien (MPL)?
When a patient cannot or will not pay for medical treatment, the medical provider can opt to issue a medical provider lien (MPL) for the amount owed. The MPL forces the patient to set aside part of their eventual settlement or award to pay part of the provider’s medical bill.
Why are MPLs issued?
In a personal injury case, the other party’s insurance will cover your medical expenses, but the money will only be paid out at one time, all together, from the court settlement. This one-time payment is for all of your damages (medical bills, pain & suffering, loss of a normal life, wage loss, etc.). This can take months or years to happen. Since you will undoubtedly have medical expenses before then, you may need to pay these bills upfront. If you can’t, the medical provider can issue a medical provider’s lien to prevent getting “stiffed.”
An MPL operates similarly to other liens, like a lien on a house or a car. You must resolve or pay off a lien on a house before it can be sold. You must resolve a mechanic’s lien before you can have your car. You must satisfy the MPL before you receive any money from your settlement.
Who issues MPLs?
Chiropractors, physical therapists, and pain management doctors almost always issue MPLs. However, surgeons and other specialists who perform very expensive treatments and procedures may not take the risk involved with MPLs. They often demand payment before treatment.
How are liens issued?
You will be served with a lien and a copy will be sent via certified mail to your personal injury attorney and the other driver’s insurance company. You should always forward a copy to your attorney just in case the medical provider did not know you had an accident. Once an MPL is served, the medical provider usually ends up listed as a payee on the settlement check. All payees on the settlement check must endorse it and be paid what they are owed before you can collect your portion of the settlement.
Are there cases where MPLs are not issued?
MPLs are not enforceable in most workers’ compensation cases.
Should I let my medical provider know I am pursuing a personal injury case?
Consult your attorney, but in most cases, the answer to the question will be yes. This gives your medical provider the option to serve a medical provider lien if they would like. This can also stop the medical provider from sending you bills and collection notices that may damage your credit.
Should I pay with my health insurance to avoid MPLs?
This is a complicated question and depends on your provider, your treatment, your insurance and related costs (deductibles, co-pays, etc.). A good personal injury attorney can counsel you very early on in the process as to whether you should ask your provider to put a lien on your case or to bill your health insurance.
In general, health insurance pays less than the standard bill from the doctor and the amount you reimburse your doctor may be less too. That is why some medical providers will take a chance on the MPL rather than accept payment through health insurance. Health insurance companies will also issue what is called a “subrogation notice” – which is somewhat similar to an MPL. Basically, it requires you to reimburse your health insurance company out of your settlement.
How does the MPL get satisfied?
Up to 40 percent of your settlement is subject to paying off liens. It is the job of your personal injury attorney to not only make sure all liens are paid from the settlement, but also to negotiate the liens down to a lower number. Medical providers will typically receive more through an MPL than health insurance. However, medical providers have been known to come back with additional billing after the MPL has been served. Your attorney should make sure that all bills are finalized and paid through the MPL so you will be safe from any further invoices or balance billing.
What if I don’t win the case? Am I still responsible for the MPL?
Yes, and you can still be pursued for payment regardless of the outcome of your personal injury case. Your attorney can counsel you on solutions to this dilemma if necessary. In cases where you and/or your attorney feel that the amount of a medical charge is inflated, your attorney can go to court and ask a judge to reduce the lien. This does not get rid of the bill – it just reduces the amount you have to pay the medical provider out of your settlement.
If you have a personal injury case and need counsel on paying your medical bills, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Gardi & Haught can help you with your options. Contact us by clicking on our free case evaluation button below.