A recent report by the Center for Disease Control showed the heavy costs of medical bills on the average citizen. According to the study, in the fix six months of 2011, one in three people were experiencing the financial burden of medical bills. The burden of heavy medical bills has fallen primarily on the poor, those under the age of 17 and the elderly. For children under age 17, 24% were in families who were having trouble paying their medical bills.
Our country spent $2.6 trillion dollars per year on health care in 2010. This is more than the entire economies of France and Great Britain combined. Yet, the way healthcare is provided from state to state can vary widely. In Massachusetts, they have a mandatory insurance program which covers 98% of its citizens. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Texas. 25% of all Texans have no health insurance at all. According to a study by UCLA, done in 2010, the rate of uninsured in California is not much better. 24.3% of all Californians are without health insurance.
As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, I have personally seen many clients whose financial worlds have been rocked when they have incurred heavy medical bills following an automobile accident. People may incur these large bills for a variety of reasons: they may be either uninsured or underinsured due to the high cost of insurance, or they lost their insurance because of being laid off from work; the bills may be for treatments not covered by their health insurer; the bills may have been incurred out of their usual insurance network; or they may have a very high deductible to meet before their insurance coverage kicks in. Injured parties may be able to recover these bills in a personal injury lawsuit, but they may have to wait years for their cases to be resolved.
The best way to protect yourself against high medical bills if you have been involved in a car accident is to obtain “med pay” coverage through your own auto insurance company. Med pay coverage will pay for your accident related medical bills whether you are at fault in the accident or not. It also provides coverage for any of your passengers. This coverage also applies to you if you are a pedestrian, or cyclist and are injured because you have been struck by a car. The coverage is available on almost all policies issued in California and usually comes in increments of $1,000.00, $2,000.00, $5,000.00, $10,000.00, all the way up to $100,000.00. The coverage is generally not that expensive.
I would recommend purchasing med pay coverage on your automobile liability insurance policy even if you have health insurance. Most health insurance plans today have deductibles and co-pay provisions. If you are seriously injured in an automobile accident, the amounts of the deductibles and co-pays can add up to thousands of dollars. Your med pay coverage can be used to pay off these outstanding bills which are not paid fully by your health insurance. Additionally, the med pay can be used to pay for healthcare which may not be covered by your health insurance such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, other alternative medical treatments.
The status of the health care delivery system in America in my opinion is abysmal. We spend more on healthcare than other countries, and yet have higher morbidity rates in many cases. Our system cries out for reform to protect the many uninsured and underinsured in our country. In the meantime, considering med pay coverage for your automobile liability coverage may help provide you coverage or plug holes in your existing coverage if you are injured in a serious automobile accident.
One Nation, Two Health Care Extremes, NPR News, March 19, 2012
Number of uninsured in California counties grew during recession, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, August 23, 2010