Friday, October 30
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Medical Liens – Healthcare & Law’s Proverbial Catch 22

While meeting financial demands may be nothing new for healthcare facilities, for today’s medical providers a legal climate exists that has been described as an ‘economic gauntlet. Just keeping the lights on for some healthcare facilities is an issue facing far too many healthcare providers. How does this issue affect you? Let us explore this question.

Nationwide medical care providers deal with tough issues daily, in part such issues range from; rising operational costs, State and Federal funding cut backs, reduced corporate donations created by a tough economy, and Federal legislation ensuring emergency medical care for all patients. Granted while such challenges are just a sample of the issues facing America’s medical providers, make no mistake, these issues alone are reason enough for a “fiscal juggling act” providers face as demands increase while capital is decreasing.

For the federally subsidized medical institution, each provider is compelled by Federal statute to provide emergency medical treatment to all patients, irregardless of the patient’s ability to pay. To date; the financial impact such regulation has on medical providers has been defined by recent statistics that show over 50% of all emergency patients admitted annually have no proof of insurance at the time of admission. So what’s the correlation? Patients who receive emergency medical care benefit from the current legislation, as each receives medical treatment without a guarantee of financial responsible for such treatment. For medical providers the losses associated with patient care is absorbed as taxable deductions as well as passed on as increased healthcare costs to insured patients. Thus insured or not this situation affects us all.

For the healthcare providers who are profitable, a “taxable write ” for uncollected patient accounts provides an advantage, but for medical provider whose write offs exceed revenue, there’s a real paradox. For providers to meet fiscal demands while not generating sufficient capital to meet overhead, and yet expected to provide quality care, well is too much being asked? Not if you’re a patient who’s standard of care falls below that guaranteed by national standards.

For the profitable medical facility write offs provide a slight advantage, but the reality is a “business as usual” approach to healthcare can not continue as at current because the facts are; a day of reckoning in on the horizon for us all. For medical facility executives to keep the books balanced money must be available to meet financial demands and absorbing losses doesn’t meet the demands incurred by wages, salaries, supplies, utilities, equipment, bank notes and the like. And while you’re calculating the hundreds of millions in expenses just for these categories, add to the equation the legal costs of collections for unpaid uninsured accounts. Now as you wear out your calculator, are you beginning to understand the economic crunch medical facilities face when treating the uninsured and ending up on the short end of the “financial stick”?

Granted while most U.S. consumers find themselves shedding no tears for multi-billion dollar healthcare facilities, you may find yourself feeling differently the next time you’re in need of emergency medical care and none is available because, the once prosperous medical facility is closed due to the economic reasons. Something to think about wouldn’t you agree? Are there other options verses the standard way of doing business? Absolutely. Now let’s explore uninsured patients and the financial solution medical providers have available.

The “Solution”…the “Medical Lien”

The medical lien is a legal security provided to a medical provider when a patient later becomes a plaintiff in a legal case. In such a situation if settlement occurs, medical providers are compensated as the attorney of record compensates the provider out of the insurance collection proceeds. However, as financially sound as a medical lien appears to be, in a real world application, untold losses occur each year from the use of the medical lien.

While medical liens are a nationally used legal tool, for the millions of patients treated annually under this devise the facts are, all too often a medical lien leaves the providers who rely on them with the “short end of the financial stick”. Revenues the medical lien are designed to generate instead create liability for the medical facility, and thus the results are, beyond emergency care, some medical providers decline patients or at best limit the amount of patients they accept whose care is secured by the medical lien.

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