What Accident Victims Need To Know Before Seeking Care
Medical billing abuse is being inflicted on fellow Oklahomans injured in automobile accidents every day. The challenge facing accident victims begins when they innocently seek medical care for painful conditions such as whiplash or low back pain. Often, victims search for assistance after significant trauma is ruled out either at the accident scene or following a visit to the emergency room. Turning to online searches or local advertisements, patients are at risk from so-called “accident care clinics.” Unscrupulous clinics frequently prey on auto accident victims’ unawareness of accident medical billing laws and the potentially devastating financial implications of seeking care in these facilities.
Watch Out For Less Than Honest Accident Care Clinics and Providers
The game usually plays out like this – A promise for care is made without any upfront charges, and no bill for services is presented to the accident patient. After scheduling a full week of treatment with liberal use of hot packs, massage, manipulations, braces, wraps, and X-rays, the charges start piling up quickly. An attorney will likely encourage an accident victim to follow up with their accident care and treatment or risk negatively impacting their insurance settlement. The overwhelming majority of accident victims want to feel better and heal from their injuries.
After weeks of showing up for treatments that haven’t helped much, the second level of the game starts, and they are sent for more diagnostics and procedures. At this point, the patient has likely never seen a single billed charge for the services thrown at them from every direction. Unfortunately, you now have an extraordinarily expensive medical bill in just a short time for substandard “healthcare”.
Medical Bills After an Accident Can Victimize You a Second Time
Using something called a “Lien,” a clinic may legally bill you for medical services. To avoid patients having to pay out-of-pocket up front, a “lien” is filed with the local court to ensure that any payments distributed by the at-fault insurance carrier include your medical bills. The filing of a “lien” is entirely appropriate; however, some unscrupulous accident care treatment clinics purposely over-treat and over-charge patients to run up a hefty bill. Ultimately, patients have the legal responsibility to pay these severely inflated medical bills out of any money provided by the at-fault insurance carrier. Many accident victims are forced to accept a reduced payment from their settlement due to the extraordinarily inflated medical expenses.
Medical, hospital, and physician “Liens” are legal instruments that entitle treating clinics and providers to collect payment for services from the proceeds of any future insurance settlements or payments. It is not uncommon to find these “Liens” filed in amounts of $30,000, $50,000, or even above $100,000 from a single “accident care” clinic over just a few days or weeks of providing so-called “accident care.” I have personally reviewed cases that resulted in billed and collected charges that were 20-30 times higher than what would usually be charged for equivalent non-motor vehicle-related care and treatment. That is 2000% to 3000% higher charges than what Medicare pays for the exact same therapy, procedures, and related expenses! No wonder these “accident care clinics” don’t take care of anything but car accident patients! If a clinic ONLY treats car accident victims, you should proceed with caution.
You Are In Control – Get Billing Information Upfront
As you can see, there is a lot to think about when seeking medical care after having suffered an automobile accident. However, don’t feel as though you don’t have options – YOU are in control of making decisions about your healthcare at all times. I recommend discussing billing practices with the clinic manager or, better yet, the treating doctor BEFORE you sign any paperwork in a clinic providing accident care and treatment. A lack of willingness to have an open discussion about the expected costs for an injury accident medical consultation should be a red flag that you may not be dealing with an honest clinic.
What’s Your Best Option After Being Injured and Needing Accident Care?
If you are not sure what to do next, schedule a telemedical consult or phone call with me or one of my specialty colleagues to discuss your case at no charge. We look forward to the opportunity to provide you the information you need to help you make the best decision to receive the best care without being financially abused. Our expertise in full-body spine & joint evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment may be just the help you need to help you get back to your active life.