I generally try to avoid talking about politics in this Blog. So, without telling you what I personally think of Obama’s health care overhaul, I will tell you what impact the new Law will have on Syracuse and Central New York personal injury and medical malpractice victims.
First, though, let’s talk about how the current health care system affects victims of injuries caused by someone else’s wrongdoing or negligence. If these injured folks are unlucky enough to be among the 15% of Americans who can’t afford, and thus do not have, health care insurance, they are in a real bind. The liability insurer for the at-fault guy will REIMBURSE their medical bills after they are done treating for the injury, upon a global settlement of the whole case, but the liability insurance will NOT pay the medical bills as they come due in the meantime. This too often means that the accident victim’s doctors won’t treat him, because no one is paying his bills. Doctors usually won’t wait for their patient’s settlement or victory at trial to get paid because they don’t know for sure that the patient will win his case, or get a settlement that will cover the medical expenses. And things get worse for the patient-accident victim. Without proper, well-documented medical treatment, it is later difficult to prove the accident victim’s injury.
So the accident victim really gets injured not once, but THREE TIMES!: First, when someone’s carelessness caused his physical injury. Second, when he can’t get the medical treatment he needs and thus has to suffer through needless pain and perhaps ends up with a much worse result. And third, when he doesn’t get a fair settlement or verdict because he is unable to fully prove his injury for lack of medical records documenting it.
Believe me, this happens all the time. Example: I have a client, a poor farm worker, whose neck was broken due to a machine operator’s negligence. The at-fault guy has liability insurance, but of course won’t pay the medical bills as they come due. My client got some initial medical treatment, but then the doctors refused to see him because he wasn’t paying his bills. To make matters worse, lawyer ethical rules prohibit me, his attorney, from lending him money so he can get the medical treatment he needs. He hasn’t been able to work since of the accident, and he hasn’t been able to get medical treatment, either. So now he has no “medical bills” to be reimbursed by the liability insurer when he eventually wins or settles his case, because he has not been getting any treatment, and he has almost no medical proof of his injury. In sum, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Under Obama’s new health care system, 95% of Americans will be covered. Thus, far fewer injury victims will fall between the cracks as has the client I described above. So as much as I hate the idea of turning this blog into a political commentary, on behalf of my many future injured clients, who will be the victims of someone else’s carelessness, I have to say, hurray Obama!