If you were injured in a car accident, you can get compensation for your medical expenses through a personal injury lawsuit. But negotiating with the insurance company can take months or longer, especially if you need to go to court. In the meantime, you are responsible for paying your own bills, with your settlement eventually reimbursing you.
But if you are injured, you need treatment right away. So, when you don’t have health insurance, what do you do? Where do you go for treatment? Can you even get treated?
The answer is yes. You have several options to cover medical treatment costs after a car crash, even if you don’t have health insurance.
We Know Options
It is important to understand your options, because healthcare providers may try to turn you away and say they will not provide treatment if you’ve been injured in a car crash but don’t have insurance. First: both public and private hospitals are legally required to provide treatment in an emergency, regardless of ability to pay. Second, public hospitals cannot deny treatment even in non-emergency situations.
But it is not always the emergency care that is an issue. Even trying to get in to see your primary care provider can be an issue because many healthcare providers claim that they do not accept the alternative forms of health coverage we discuss below. Some providers even try to rig the system to avoid taking the lower pay from health insurance. The good news is that most providers in our area do not play those games, and even if you have trouble getting into your regular PCP, there are good options available.
The best option after being injured in a crash without health insurance is to contact a lawyer right away to determine what types of alternative health coverage might be available to you, and how to get compensation.
Our team is also familiar with local healthcare providers willing to work with victims of car accidents who don’t have health insurance, to make sure you get the treatment you need while waiting for your settlement to conclude.
You May Have Health Coverage Through Your Auto Insurance
Medical payments coverage is optional coverage on auto insurance policies, so not all policies include it. However, we highly recommend purchasing medical payments coverage (also known as med pay) if you don’t currently have it.
Medical payments coverage will cover your and your passengers’ medical expenses up to the coverage amount, regardless of who was at fault for the accident, even if it was a single car accident!
Med pay covers ambulance fees, deductibles and co-pays, doctor and hospital visits, x-rays and surgeries, essentially any medical expenses you need it to. This is also a great option even if you do have health insurance but want to avoid using it to avoid paying a high deductible.
Plus, it pays immediately, so you don’t have to go through a long lawsuit before getting the compensation you need. Once you receive your bill for treatment, simply submit it to your auto insurance and ask to be reimbursed out of your med pay provision.
However, keep in mind that medical payments coverage is not going to cover as much as you would get from filing a personal injury claim. Depending on how much coverage you purchase, your coverage amount could be anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000, and any expenses past that you will still be responsible for.
Be mindful that your health coverage has to be coordinated. Med pay can be used even if you have health insurance, but if you have both, you should know your options in trying to coordinate these benefits.
The at-fault party is ultimately responsible for payment of medical bills and other damages, but in the meantime, your healthcare providers like to get paid using the available health coverage. Obligation to reimburse may arise as well if you recover compensation from the insurance company – so you must be careful making any agreements to settle a claim for your medical bills. We are happy to discuss your options because it can make a difference in your physical recovery, exercising your rights, and ultimate recovery of damages for your injury.
You May Have Benefits Through Tricare
Tricare, the U.S. military healthcare program, provides healthcare benefits for members of the military and National Guard/Reserve and their families. Military veterans continue to have access to these benefits after retirement.
Tricare will also cover treatment for injuries sustained in car accidents, if no other insurance is available. This is because Tricare is not considered first-party coverage in cases of vehicle accidents. If you have access to med pay, Medicaid, or a different form of insurance, Tricare will only kick in after you exhaust the policy limits of the other insurance.
Getting healthcare through Tricare after an accident caused by someone else can get complicated – the benefits have to be coordinated, the JAG office notified, and benefits discussed with the Army, which makes hiring a lawyer to handle your injury claim a smart move to make sure everything is done right.
If you plan to file a personal injury claim, Tricare will also put a lien on your settlement to be reimbursed later after you receive compensation from the at-fault party. Furthermore, no attorney’s fees can be collected on the portion of the settlement needed to reimburse Tricare for the treatment it paid for.
For attorneys who are not used to coordinating with Tricare, this can complicate releasing your settlement, meaning you have to wait longer to get your compensation check in hand. However, the team at the Law Offices of Gary Bruce deals with Tricare claims routinely, and we can make sure all of those bills and claims are anticipated and accounted for.
You May Be Eligible for Medicaid Coverage
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about Medicaid, but what you need to know is that Medicaid is a health insurance program, funded by the federal government and run by the states, that helps people who can’t afford medical care pay for most or all of their medical bills. And since it is taxpayer funded, you don’t have to pay an insurance premium to use it.
If you don’t have access to affordable health insurance, or you lose your health insurance and/or your job as a result of your accident, you may qualify for Medicaid coverage.
If you are eligible for Medicaid, you are guaranteed coverage for inpatient and outpatient hospital services, doctor visits, x-rays, ambulance visits, home health care if your accident leaves you disabled, and more. It may also cover your prescription medication.
However, you must be covered by Medicaid at the time you get service, so if you believe you were injured in the accident and don’t need emergency treatment, make applying for Medicaid a priority so you can get treated, while covered, without having to wait too long.
For more information on how to apply for Medicaid in Georgia, click here.
For more information on how to apply for Medicaid in Alabama, click here.
If you already have Medicaid coverage, submit your hospital bills to Medicaid, and don’t listen if the hospital tries to tell you Medicaid doesn’t cover car accident injuries. It does and will.
You Can Work Something Out With the Hospital
Talk to your healthcare provider. If they know you were injured in a car crash, they may be willing to work out a payment plan for you rather than demanding you pay all your bills at once.
If you tell them you are planning to file a personal injury claim, and they agree that the other person was negligent and you are likely to win your settlement, they may also agree to hold off on charging you until after you receive your settlement, and take their payment then.
If the latter happens, they will ask you to sign a lien agreeing to pay that amount later. By signing this legal document, you agree to have the doctors receive their payment from the settlement even before you get any of the money yourself, to make sure they do receive their payment. Once all medical liens are paid, you will receive a check for the remainder of the settlement.
Our team is familiar with local healthcare providers who are willing to work with patients to get the care they need regardless of ability to pay, so if you find you are unable to pay some or all of your medical bills before receiving your settlement check, make sure to talk to one of our attorneys about your options.
Injured in a Crash? Call the Law Offices of Gary Bruce
At our firm, we know the law. But we also know everything else that accident victims go through, and we want to make it all easier for our clients so they can simply focus on their recovery.