What is a medical lien?
A medical lien is a claim by a healthcare provider for an interest in your personal injury settlement or award. This includes hospitals, physicians’ offices, private insurance healthcare providers, and governmental insurance healthcare providers (Medicare and Medicaid). We most often see medical liens asserted by insurance providers. If an insurance provider has paid for medical treatment related to your injuries that are the subject of litigation, it may place a lien on your case seeking reimbursement out of any proceeds you recover. Even if you have paid your premiums and co-pays, you may have an obligation under the terms of your contract with the insurance company to repay it for medical expenses.
How do I know if I have a medical lien?
To assert a valid lien, private insurance providers must send a Notice of Lien to you or your attorney claiming an interest in your proceeds. Governmental providers may send a Notice of Lien, but they are not obligated to do so. Your attorney is required by federal law to notify Medicare and Medicaid of any settlement or award, even if you have never had or are ineligible for their coverage. Only then will you know whether one of these entities is claiming entitlement to your proceeds.
What do I do if I have a medical lien?
If you receive a Notice of Lien, inform your attorney immediately. Once the amount of your settlement or award is determined, your attorney will contact the lien holder and obtain a list of charges claimed to be related to your injuries and perform an audit of all charges. Your attorney will negotiate with the provider to reduce the amount of the lien and resolve it. Regardless of what type of insurance provider asserts a lien, the lien must be addressed and resolved prior to any disbursement of funds. While lien resolution may slow down your settlement process, it is important to remember that it is in your best interest to let your attorneys thoroughly evaluate and resolve any liens. Not only is lien resolution oftentimes a requirement of your settlement, but it protects your rights to future healthcare coverage and prevents insurance providers from taking legal action against you for failure to pay a debt.