Friday, April 11, 2008
Nebraska Unicameral amends medical lien statute Section 52-401 to clarify that medical providers may only claim their discounted fees and charges when they accepted discounts from private health insurance or health benefit plans. Amended law now allows chiropractors to file liens, but does not public insurance. Stinson Morrison Health Care E-Alert. "On March 10, 2008, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved LB 586, amending Neb. Rev. Stat. 52-401, the Medical Lien Statute. The changes went into effect when approved. Of importance to health care providers is that the changes to the statute clarify that a provider's charges under a perfected lien are only subject to reduction when the provider has contracted for a discount or other limitation with a private medical insurance or health benefit plan. The limitation does not apply to reimbursement under public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The provider's option, if available, to pursue full payment when a public program is primary is not affected by LB 586. In 2004, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in Midwest Neurosurgery, P.C. v. State Farm Ins., that when a provider has entered into a managed care contract to accept a rate less than its full charge, the lower contracted rate becomes the provider's usual and customary charge for purposes of the Medical Lien Statute. Since that time there has been a question whether that decision applied to public programs such as Medicare. The changes made by LB 586 make it clear the discount provisions only apply to private programs; not public. When a patient has health benefits under a public program as his/her primary insurance, the provider has all options available under those public rules including, to waive billing Medicare and pursue the potential liability settlement at full charges. In addition to the above, LB 586 brought chiropractors under the statute's umbrella. Chiropractors now have the protections and the obligations of the Medical Lien Statute. Remember, that the Medical Lien Statute does not require a provider to pay the injured party's attorney's fees and costs. While these attorney's fees have precedence over a provider's lien, the provider is not obligated to pay, in any proportion, those fees. Also of note, a late amendment provides that even when there is a contractual discount or other limitation, the full provider charge is the measure of damages for medical expenses and not the discounted rate. This last amendment may, or may not, be a subject for future legislative sessions.