On Monday February 6, 2012, the legal newspaper for Fulton County, the Fulton County Daily Report ran an article about a Judge in Columbus ordering Kenneth S Nugent PC to pay $12,000 to Floyd Medical Center for a bill that originally cost $3,836.
It seems that Attorney Ken Nugents employees settled a car accident injury case for a client for $50,000(probably the policy limits) and were aware that there was an unpaid hospital bill for $3,836. The injured client says they thought the law firm was taking care of the bill and the article says that State Farm argued that Nugent set the money aside in trust. I am betting that the Fulton Daily reporter misread the complaint. It appears that Floyd sued State Farm for not paying the bill and State Farm then sued Nugent. It would appear that State Farm sued under some type of constructive trust or off of their indemnity agreement in their release.
The underlying evil is this: high volume, TV advertising firms like Nugent can slide into bad habits, including ignoring medical bills and hospital liens. No one is perfect and it can happen, but what astounds me is that Nugent did not just step up to the plate and pay the hospital bill. If you make a mistake, fix it.
In our law firm, if the client has no health insurance or med pay and has an outstanding unpaid medical bill, we will call the hospital or provider and attempt to negotiate the bill down. If the provider refuses to negotiate on a large bill, we will sometimes set the funds aside in trust if we feel that our offer to them is fair and let them come back when they have cooled down. The downside risk of course is that they can undertake collections actions and this can harm the client’s credit.
If the hospital is refusing to send the bill to the health insurer as Athens Regional and Kennestone have done a few times, then we send a certified letter insisting that they send the bill to the health insurer and with confirmation of no primary payor medical payments coverage. If the hospital still refuses to bill the health insurer, then it is our position that they are in breach of the health services contract with the health insurer and the bill is void.
Getting back to the bonehead play by the employees of Ken Nugent, as of the date of the article, Floyd’s attorney is still waiting on a ruling on their medical bill. How do you allow a problem like this to go all the way to a judicial ruling?
The key takeaway here is: do not take hospital bills, medical liens, health insurance reimbursement claims and workers compensation subrogation claims lightly. Hospitals provide an invaluable service and they deserve to be paid at least the insurance contract rate in most situations.
As a client you should insist on total visibility and a written explanation prior to settling and in the closing statement detailing what will happen with the outstanding medical bills.