Our team of auto accident attorneys frequently helps clients who struggle with navigating the complexities of insurance coverage. Oftentimes, those seriously injured in a car accident require immediate hospitalization, emergency surgeries and even extended stays in the hospital. If that person does not have health insurance, trying to pay for the bills and attempting to buy insurance can be a nightmare.
The Affordable Healthcare Act forbids insurance companies from denying anyone coverage because of pre-existing conditions. For some, that means they put off buying coverage until they are injured in a serious accident or become gravely ill. Many potential clients who call into the firm ask if they can purchase insurance immediately after their accident, so they can be covered for the medical bills that mount after their accident.
A recent article from NPR does a great job responding to these types of questions. The article’s author states that it is actually quite unlikely that someone would be able to sign up for coverage immediately after being injured in an accident. Although it is true that insurance companies may not deny anyone based on their current health, those seeking coverage must sign-up during open enrollment periods; for those buying coverage through their employer, that period is typically during the fall months.
For those buying coverage individually or otherwise, open enrollment begins on November 15 of this year. Additionally, there is a considerable lag between the date of sign-up and when the actual coverage begins.
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Open enrollment periods were established with these types of procrastinators in mind. If anyone could sign up for coverage at any time, a large amount would simply wait until they became sick or suffered a serious injury. This would severely impact the healthcare marketplace, devastating it for those who use it properly.
Can Hospitals Enroll Patients for Coverage?
Some hospitals offer to enroll patients before they get sick – usually after minor health scares or similar situations. Other hospitals even pay premiums for certain patients’ existing policies. This type of assistance is taking place in New York, Wisconsin and Florida when low-income patients have difficulty paying their medical premiums. This is done in part to make sure hospitals are paid when they provide care for these patients.
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Unsurprisingly, insurance companies are less than thrilled about this new practice and are asking the government to restrict such programs, which are set up by groups like the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. These groups collect donations (ranging in the millions) from member hospitals to help poverty-level policyholders pay their premiums.
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There are stipulations and criteria for such programs, however. A patient receiving assistance in Wisconsin, for example, would have to live in Dane County, have an income that the federal government considers ‘poverty level’, and enroll in a subsidized silver healthcare plan. Patients in the program have the difference between the subsidy and the annual cost of the plan, with the money coming from the University of Wisconsin Madison healthcare system.
More than 60 million people in the United States are insured under Medicaid, which is the federal program for low-income Americans, including children, seniors, pregnant women and the disabled. People eligible for the program must have a certain level of income, however, many states recently expanded coverage, particularly so it can apply to children.
If you were seriously injured in an accident and have any questions or concerns about how your medical bills are going to be paid, contact our firm immediately. Our auto accident attorneys provide free legal consultations to patients and families nationwide, and we never charge any lawyers’ fees until we are successful in your case.