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Health insurance is supposed to be there to help us, for OUR benefit. The California Supreme Court, in the Howell v. Hamilton Meats case, decided that while you might get your medical bills covered by your health insurance but any discount your health insurance company negotiates for you on paying those bills is not a benefit for exclusively for you. The Court said that any person who causes you harm is also entitled to that benefit when it comes time to compensate you for your incurred medical expenses. Often times this also means that the value of your pain and suffering is reduced because auto insurance companies, adjusters, judges and juries all look at your medical expenses as a determining factor in how much to compensate you for physical suffering.
One additional consequence of the Court’s opinion, probably unintended, is that there is no longer any motivation to submitting medical bills to health insurance for payment. Other than getting the bills paid (which benefits only the health care provider), there is no benefit to the injured person. There is more value in letting the bills linger in collections or on a statutory lien for their “full amount” rather than having the bills paid at a reduced rate which only benefits the auto insurance companies and ultimately distorts the value of your valid injury claim.
In essence, consumers are being punished for trying to plan for an unfortunate accident, and being punished again by giving someone who causes harm the benefit of your buying health insurance. The solution is to take the issue up with our Legislature: convince our legislators that the Court misapplied the law and that the health insurance consumer is losing the intended benefit of health insurance. Otherwise, the critical element of damages is depressed, distorted and under compensated. Ultimately the entire system will become retarded because it will be more beneficial to those injured in accidents to let their medical bills go unpaid.
You must contact a competent personal injury attorney to find out if using your health insurance is to your advantage. Our Lawyers have the experience and are here to help keep you from being taken advantage of.
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