“Med Pay”

As a physician, I see people almost daily who have suffered injuries in motor vehicle accidents, but do not have much choice of or access to effective treatment, and as a result their pain and limitations keep them from activities they enjoy and perhaps even from working. Why? Simply because they did not request a very important part of auto insurance coverage, one that is rarely “offered” without asking by the insurance companies. No one plans to have an accident, and very few people understand how “insurance” works when the unthinkable occurs. Consider the following common misconceptions and their corresponding reality.

MYTH: When an accident is the “other person’s fault”, the “other person’s insurance” will pay for medical treatment. FACT: The other driver may not have insurance at all. (Make sure your “uninsured motorist” coverage is enough to cover treatment costs that could include an ambulance ride, MRIs, etc) If the other driver has insurance (“third party insurance” to you), they eventually pay what they deem “reasonable” medical bills, but only at the end of your treatment, if you don’t have Med Pay. This limits your options for treating practitioners to those who are willing and able to wait months or years for payment for their services. It almost guarantees you will need to get a lawyer, or else pay out of pocket as you go. It puts significant pressure on you to settle as quickly as possible before treatment is complete. All your bills might not be paid.

MYTH: Med Pay, coverage for medical bills in case of an accident, is automatically included in your vehicle insurance package FACT: Med-pay has to be specifically requested, in specific amounts–$2,000 (inadequate) $5,000 (barely adequate), $10,000 (minimum recommended) from your insurance agent. The agents rarely offer it without being asked. It costs almost nothing (average about $10 or $15 a month) to provide “as-you-go” medical treatment from the practitioner of your choice, without hassles or pressure. (Once the limit is reached, you will then need to collect from third party insurance when treatment is complete.) Do not accept any med pay policy with a deductible (out of pocket expense you have to pay first).

MYTH: If you already have health insurance, there is no reason to have Med Pay FACT: Lucky you, if you have health insurance! But, although you may have had it when you took out your vehicle policy, do you still have it now? Will it cover the treatments, besides doctor visits, you want and need to heal from the accident, such as chiropractic, osteopathic, physical therapy, massage, or acupuncture? Do not accept med pay policies where your health insurance has to be billed first and refuse payment (due to a deductible or charges being related to an accident) before your bills are paid- this is nothing more than a stalling tactic to harass the treating practitioner and limit your treatment.

I highly recommend that everyone carry Med Pay as part of their vehicle insurance policy. It provides peace of mind in a stressful situation, allowing you to proceed with the treatment you want and need for your accident injuries with the practitioners of your choice. If you do not have Med Pay yet, call your insurance agent TODAY and add it to your policy, or increase the dollar amount. No one plans on having an accident, but with the growing levels of distraction, impatience, and just plain terrible driving out there (perhaps since there is no drivers ed in high school anymore?), it may be more likely than you would want to think! And while you are optimizing the protection your vehicle insurance provides, also take a look at the limits of the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Your eventual settlement cannot exceed the “limits of the policy”. If this dollar amount is too low, the other party to the accident has minimal or no insurance, and your med pay has already been exhausted, your medical care could come to a “dead end”, even though you have not yet fully recovered from a serious injury. Work with your insurance agent to plan ahead for optimum protection and coverage!