As we’ve covered before, emergency treatments are sometimes required, but a patient may be unable to pay. In cases like these, the hospital will always provide services but may also establish a medical lien for the patient if they’re uninsured or unable to pay. This means the provider gives care on credit and collects later for services rendered now.
While handy in the short term, it remains a financial burden on a patient. However, some healthcare providers are willing to provide this credit to collect on a potential settlement from, for example, a personal injury lawsuit. Even after a lien has been imposed, an attorney may be able to reach a fair and equitable agreement with the healthcare provider. Here are several crucial steps to negotiating a medical lien.
Time Frame and Limits
Medical liens have two main limitations. First, liens can only be requested when treatment was provided within 72 hours of the incident requiring treatment. The provider is also entitled to the full costs of the treatment, but the lien can’t exceed 40 percent of the final settlement. In general, healthcare providers may be averse to negotiation, but contracts are made to be negotiated. Circumstances and the likelihood of being paid can certainly affect the terms of the lien. Attorneys may also be able to help a patient find a better arrangement with another provider or develop a plan that allows the patient to pay according to a schedule or for a lower amount. It’s all about time and costs, and it makes more sense for patients and providers to negotiate rather than end up in court.
One of the crucial steps to negotiating a medical lien is seeking medical lien purchasing. Similar to pre-settlement funding, medical lien purchasing happens when a financial company buys the lien and pays off the healthcare provider. A portion of any future personal injury or other settlement is considered collateral, and the final settlement will be used to pay off the debt. However, for the convenience offered by the funding, the patient may also owe interest. The company may also purchase medical liens from doctors and other healthcare providers and collect them. Providers may prefer this to finding and collecting from the patients themselves.
Other Steps for Negotiation
Patients and attorneys can look for ways to reduce liens. Review all the paperwork, looking for what’s already been paid out, unrelated medical costs that had nothing to do with the actual injury, or even duplicate charges that turned up due to human or machine error. Forewarned is forearmed, and those extra and unnecessary costs can add up. The simple fact that a patient is incapable of paying due to an inability to work while recovering or experiencing permanent disability or other hardships is also worth mentioning in negotiations. Also, consider offering some amount of payment in exchange for consideration. Something is better than nothing, plus it’s a show of good faith.