SB 5 – Hospital and Ambulance Liens

Less than a day after I complained about the bills not being available online, they appeared. Is my power just that vast or was it just a happy coincidence?

Anyway, the first one that catches my eye is SB 5, introduced by Sen. Steele concerning hospital and ambulance liens under IC 32-33-4 and 32-33-5. Those chapters set forth procedures by which ambulance companies and hospitals can assert a lien against a patient’s personal injury claim.

Sen. Steele’s bill would repeal those chapters but preserve the lien rights of those who already have liens. I don’t know his motivation, but these lien procedures seem to be relatively unused and cause problems for insurers of defendants when they are used. (Seems like Parkview Hospital out of Fort Wayne came up in the case reports as a frequent user of the hospital lien procedure.) Maybe there is a better way, but when you are settling a personal injury claim, I got into the habit of calling the Indiana Department of Insurance. If I recall correctly, the call got routed to the Medical Malpractice section even though the hospital liens aren’t limited to medical malpractice claims. It almost seemed like the people there had to fire up a separate computer to check their list for a lien against a particular personal injury plaintiff.

I have not personally come up against issues involving ambulance liens; I suspect because they tend to be a few hundred bucks versus hospital liens which can be quite significant. In the case of hospital liens, there are other notice provisions and a defense insurer who finds itself on the hook paying a hospital lien usually at least theoretically has recourse against a personal injury plaintiff it paid but who didn’t satisfy his or her obligation to the hospital. But personal injury settlement money can evaporate awfully fast, and that recourse might not amount to much.

I think Rep. Steele’s bill raises an interesting question about whether hospitals and ambulance companies really ought to have a priority claim against personal injury claims not available to other sorts of creditors. I don’t have any strong opinions on that one.

Comments

  1. Paul K. Ogden says

    It appears only some Senate bills have been entered, and no House bills. Also the bills haven’t been entered on the subject index yet. You need to exercise your powers to get everything in the system.

  2. Fran Niper says

    Repealing the Hospital Lien statute is a bad idea. Without this remedy, one has just forced the hospital’s hand and now a hospital will have to file suit and obtain a judgment in order to truly protect their right against the patient.

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