Getting the medical treatment you need after an accident is probably the most important step towards putting your life back together and building a strong personal injury case. Delaying your medical care following an accident can have serious negative consequences on your case (and your ability to recover compensation for your losses), and it is important to act quickly to determine the best course of action in your particular case to get the medical care you deserve.
But what happens if you are one of the millions of Texans without health insurance, or if you have health insurance but cannot afford your co-pays or deductible? There are many people who can’t pay their hospital bill. No insurance help certainly doesn’t make that any easier. Fortunately, you have options that will allow you to get the medical care you need without causing you additional financial stress.
You have at least three options for getting medical care after an accident, even if you can’t afford to pay for it up-front: 1) using a Letter of Protection; 2) using a medical factoring company; and 3) using your own auto insurance coverage if you have Personal Injury Protection or Medical Payments coverage. While the negligent person’s insurance company might be offering to pay for your medical expenses, this cannot be trusted and is never recommended.
Letter of Protection
Fortunately, there are many medical providers in Texas (including in the Austin area) who are willing to provide medical treatment on credit to people who have been hurt in an accident. A letter of protection is usually a written promise by the injured person or their personal injury lawyer, whereby the injured person promises to pay the medical bills out of any settlement they receive from the negligent person’s insurance company.
With a Letter of Protection, the medical provider takes a risk of delayed payment or no payment at all, in exchange for the opportunity to be paid more for their services than they would receive from a health insurance company. Paying the medical provider more for their services is a fair way to compensate the provider for the risk they are taking. Medical providers who provide care on a letter of protection are an extremely valuable part of the community, because of their willingness to take the risk of providing care to people who need it but cannot afford it.
Medical factoring is another way to pay for your medical care after an accident, even if you don’t have health insurance. With medical factoring, a financing company will pay the medical provider a discounted rate up-front for your medical care. In exchange, the financing company purchases your account from the medical provider, and has a lien against your personal injury case. So, when your case against the negligent person or their insurance company settles, you will pay the financing company for your medical bills.
Medical factoring operates very similarly to a letter of protection. Like a letter of protection, you do not have to pay any money up front for your medical treatment after an accident. Unlike a letter of protection, the medical provider does not take the risk of delayed or non-payment, since they get paid up-front from the financing company. Instead, the financing company assumes that risk, in exchange for collecting more than they paid the medical provider for the account.
Medical factoring companies are also a very important part of the community. These companies are prepared to take the risk of paying up-front for costly medical care, such as surgeries, when you may have no other option to pay for the medical care you need.
Personal Injury Protection and Medical Payments Coverages
In Texas, auto insurance companies are required to offer you coverage for Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) and Medical Payments (“MedPay”). These are “no fault” coverages that apply if you are hurt in an automobile accident. This means you are entitled to payment under these coverages even if you caused the accident.
With both PIP and MedPay, your auto insurance company is required to reimburse you for medical expenses promptly after you submit a valid claim. Generally speaking, PIP and MedPay are best for getting reimbursed for medical expenses you’ve already incurred, but some medical providers will assume the burden of submitting their own bills to your PIP or MedPay policies to save you the hassle of paying up front.
While PIP and MedPay are both great tools for helping you pay for medical care after an accident, they have their limitations. Most PIP and MedPay policies are for $10,000 or less (the majority are $2,500). So, you should not rely on these policies to be enough to pay for all the care you need after an accident, particularly if there is hospital treatment or surgery required. Additionally, with MedPay, you are required to pay your own insurance company back if you collect money from the negligent person’s insurance company, which will deplete your settlement. For this reason (and that PIP will also help pay for your lost wages), it is generally recognized that PIP is a superior product.
Importance of Consulting with a Lawyer
Under no circumstance should a lack of health insurance or concerns about the cost of your medical care deter you from getting the treatment you need as soon as possible after getting hurt in an accident. Not only will getting the care you need put you on the path of recovery, it will also help to preserve extremely important evidence in your personal injury case. While this article outlines some of your options for getting medical care, there is no substitute for talking to a qualified personal injury lawyer about the specific circumstances of your case, so you can put yourself in the best position possible to recover for your harms and losses.