Subrogation claims involving Medicare and Medicaid can be time-consuming and lengthy. If Medicare paid some of the medical expenses that were related to an injury claim that you have settled, it will be necessary to reimburse Medicare for an amount to be determined (“to be determined” being the frustrating and operative clause here).
While perusing legal related sites on the Internet, I recently saw a question posed by a client about a law firm from New Orleans. The client asked whether his Little Rock car accident attorney could be scamming him since the settlement apparently happened many months prior, and the lawyer just keeps telling the client that they are waiting on Medicare to let them know the amount of their subrogation claim. The first thing you should know – this is not out of line. It takes an excruciatingly long time to deal with Medicare. Fortunately, here are some ways to speed this up:
If you are the Plaintiff, you should have received a form from Medicare in connection with their payment of medical expenses. The form inquires as to whether a third party might be responsible for the injuries connected to the medical expenses they paid. This form should be completed and returned to get the ball rolling with Medicare. This can save lots of time once the case is settled.
Write Medicare as soon as the claim begins
The time to write Medicare is when the case begins, not when it ends. IF you write them at the beginning of the bodily injury claim, they can open a subrogation claim now and can begin determining the amount of medical expenses they have paid and what they will claim for their subrogation once the case is settled. If this amount is determined on the front end, it won’t be necessary to wait months (and even years) after the case is settled to distribute the settlement proceeds to the client and other lienholders.
Stay in touch with Medicare throughout the litigation
Once you write Medicare and obtain a subrogation claim number and a claims representative, stay in contact with them. Send them status updates of the claim. If a mediation is scheduled, notify them and let them know you may be calling them to confirm the amount so the case can be settled at mediation. Then at that point, Medicare can simply sign off on the settlement like any other lienholder, and the settlement can be distributed very quickly. If these steps aren’t followed, you can expect to wait months or years after the case is settled to actually distribute the proceeds, and that’s frustrating for everyone involved.
For these reasons, it is imperative to hire a veteran litigator and experienced trial lawyer who has been involved in Medicare subrogation claims for years.
Thanks to Steve Harrelson of the Harrelson Law Firm, P.A. for his added insight into Medicare subrogation in motor vehicle accidents.