Medical Lien Abuse
Hospital profits should never be a higher priority than patient care.
What is a Medical Lien?
When you are injured due to the another’s negligence, in a motor vehicle accident for example, you may win a monetary settlement from that individual or their insurance company to compensate for your pain and suffering. A medical lien is a legal document your health care provider files in which they claim to be entitled to a portion of that settlement as payment for treatment, preempting your ability to submit the bill to private insurance or even pay out-of-pocket. This allows the provider to collect far higher payments for medical care than they would have received otherwise. Many times, their payment demands leave an amount of money that is grossly insufficient to cover ongoing medical costs, forcing the patient into severe financial distress. Compounding the problem are the aggressive and questionable tactics the collection agencies employ to recover lien amounts, regardless if they are past due or not.
If the hospital has an opportunity to bill your health insurance, then it must do so and it cannot file a lien for the balance of the bill.
Washington law stipulates certain requirements for filing medical services liens. One requirement is that the liens must be notarized. Another is that the Washington notary live in Washington, Idaho, or Oregon and provide their address as proof. A third is that a minimum of three people who live in Washington are required to endorse a person’s notary application. If any of these three prerequisites are missing for example, the lien is then deemed unenforceable.
If your lien is deemed unenforceable, it does not release you from any monies owed – only that the claimant cannot use it as a collection vehicle.
MultiCare is a Washington company that owns and operates hospitals, medical clinics, and other facilities providing health care at 93 locations throughout the South Puget Sound area. MultiCare leaders frequently claimed that filing liens on accident victims was “standard practice in the revenue cycle business.”1 However, the King, Pierce and Snohomish County auditors’ databases show that between 2010 and 2014, MultiCare filed 6,508 liens – nearly all against individuals- almost four times more than the other major Puget Sound health systems combined.2 MultiCare recently reached a $7.5 million settlement of the class action lawsuit after clear evidence emerged that a MultiCare executive illegally allowed a collection agency to use his home address to falsely obtain Washington notary public credentials and file medical service liens. Darrell Cochran of the law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, acknowledged MultiCare’s willingness to do the right thing by settling. “MultiCare stepped up and answered its patients’ calls for a change of course,” Cochran said. “It severed ties with a bad vendor, acknowledged these liens are invalid, and agreed to give back the money they took from everyone.” “The business of medicine should not be allowed to harm the public’s trust in the practice of medicine,” he also said. “And that’s definitely what was happening here.”
If you have been the victim of a fraudulent medical lien, then seek the help of a lawyer before the financial burden becomes too great. Our lawyers have experience in a range of consumer protection related cases that include medical lien fraud and debt collection violations. So, you can be sure that you are with the best. Contact us now.
1 Deposition of Diane E. Cecchettini, Velma Walker et al. v. Hunter Donaldson, LLC et al., No . 13-2-08746-0, Superior Court of the State of Washington in and for the County of Pierce, June 5, 2014.
2 ‘Puget Sound Hospital Systems’ refers to CHI-Franciscan Health, UW Medicine, Providence Health, Swedish Health, Virginia Mason and Seattle Children’s. The total number of liens is calculated based on King, Pierce, and Snohomish County auditor websites. Where liens were filed in the name of individual hospitals that belong to a larger system, the number of liens for the system is calculated by adding the number filed by each hospital since acquisition by the larger system.