Imagine this scenario: you don’t have much cash in your bank account, but you need a big surgery. Without the operation, your life expectancy will decline substantially. With it, you have the chance at a bright future. You ask your doctor to help you explore some reasonably inexpensive treatments to reduce the cost once the big day arrives. Rather than go through insurance, your doctor decides to help you out.
That was nice of him, right?
But wait: your operation was the result of an injury you sustained because of someone else’s negligence. You have an ongoing personal injury court case against this individual. The reward could leave you better off than you were before. Since your doctor didn’t bother to bill you through insurance, he now has the option of requesting a lien payment.
A lien payment is basically a request for repayment for those bills you didn’t want to pay through insurance. That means as soon as you win your case, you’re going to be charged for whatever you couldn’t pay before.
But if you lose your personal injury case in court, guess what: you still need to pay your bill in full, insurance be damned.
These lien payment requests are becoming a lot more common in states like California, Colorado, Georgia, and Florida. That’s because of new policies and regulations that have changed to make it easier for doctors to recoup costs in this way.
There are pros and cons for the person treated. We already told you about the obvious downside if you lose in court. If you win, then hopefully you’ve already reaped some of the rewards. You had more treatment options than you would have without the lien.
The doctor might actually be compensated more than he would have if he went through traditional insurance, which is why it’s worth it for him. Some people argue that doctors take more of the risk, so they should get more reward. They also have the option of selling the lien to a company before the lawsuit is resolved in court, providing yet another means to get paid.
The biggest problem is that a lien agreement often bars a patient from opting for insurance should the case not work out in court.
The bottom line is this: before making any medical decisions, you might want to check with your lawyer and financial adviser. They’re both accustomed to helping clients make these decisions. They also might be able to help you explore more options that no one else considered. It depends on the small details of your case.