Jan 9, 2020

Some doctors are profiting from patients' personal-injury lawsuits

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals

Some doctors are treating patients and then waiting to be paid through those patients' personal-injury lawsuits, which can be much more lucrative than billing through insurance, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Between the lines: These "lien doctors" have been around for years, but recent legal and policy changes have led to the practice becoming more common, including in California, Florida, Colorado, Texas and Georgia.

How it works: The arrangement can be a win-win for both patients and doctors.

  • Patients are given broader treatment options, advocates say, and it's especially beneficial for the uninsured.
  • Lien bills are often much larger than what insurance would pay for the care, although some advocates of the practice say that doctors take on greater risk because there's no guarantee of payment.
  • Companies that buy the liens from doctors before lawsuits are resolved are also becoming more prevalent.

The other side: Critics say the lien arrangements make litigation more expensive and can leave patients on the hook for big bills if they lose in court.

  • Contracts often prevent patients from submitting claims to insurance and make them responsible for the bill regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.

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