Lawmakers in Tallahassee have proposed a new law that takes away the ability of people to recover the full cost of their medical care from the person or company who hurt them. The proposed legislation, HB 837 and SB 236, would either prohibit people from recovering the full cost of their medical care needed as the result of an injury caused by someone else, or allow defendants and insurance companies to introduce false and misleading evidence about the cost of necessary medical care. For example, if someone without health insurance is injured by another person’s negligence, the wrongdoer or their insurance company would be able to present the amount Medicare pays for medical treatment.
The problem is that the injured person could never actually get treatment for Medicare rates, or anything close to it. Doctors only accept Medicare rates because they are guaranteed prompt payment by the government and lots of patient referrals. A self-pay, uninsured patient who is NOT on Medicare and cannot pay with cash up front is billed over-the-counter rates for medical treatment (which are often many times the Medicare rate) because the doctor does not know when, or if, they will get paid in full. Additionally, many good doctors and outpatient medical practices are opting out of Medicare because the reimbursement rates barely cover the cost of providing the treatment. Hospital systems typically receive much higher Medicare reimbursement amounts than private medical practices – even for giving the exact same treatment.
Now imagine, with over 1,000 car accidents a day in Florida, what if the victims can’t afford to get access to the medical treatment they need because the wrongdoer and their insurance are only responsible for Medicare rates that don’t even cover the actual cost of care? Without being able to get the critically important care they need for acute traumatic injuries, victims will be unable to return to work due to untreated pain, injury, and disability.
If wrongdoers and their liability insurance companies are excused of their responsibility to pay for the costs of the harm that they have caused, injured victims will need to rely on publicly funded medical clinics and ERs for treatment because they will not have the funds to seek care from good doctors in private practice who specialize in the care, treatment, and rehabilitation of traumatic injuries. This giveaway to wrongdoers and liability insurance companies will further strain our hospitals and the public health and welfare system – all for the financial benefit of wrongdoers and liability insurance companies.
This proposed legislation will also create higher medical costs for all of us. If accident related medical care is paid at a significant discount, medical facilities will need to raise all patient costs to offset the financial burden. Furthermore, if accident victims do not receive proper care, taxpayer dollars will ultimately subsidize their cost of living through welfare programs.
Finally, even if the injured victim does have health insurance, they will be entitled to less of a recovery from the wrongdoer or the liability insurer because the medical damages will be limited to health insurance rates for past AND future medical care. So the injured person loses their health insurance down the road, for whatever reason, the damages they will be able to recover will not be enough to pay the full costs for the medical they will need for their injuries.
The legislation in HB 837/SB 236 is an unprecedented giveaway to liability insurance companies, and an even bigger injustice to innocent injured victims.