Imagine that you've been hurt in an accident. Your case goes to trial, you win, and you are awarded money to cover all of the medical bills you have incurred.
Now, imagine that rather than receiving the full amount of your medical bills, the money you receive is reduced to cover only the amount that was paid by health insurance.
Next, imagine that you've never been involved in an accident or had to take an injury case to trial, but you live in the same world as the person described above. Your health care costs go up because of the system that was put in place.
Do any of these situations seem fair? The simple, common-sense answer is NO!
Unfortunately, under a bill that just passed a committee in the state Senate, these situations could soon be a reality in Wisconsin.
At Nicolet Law Office, we wholeheartedly oppose this bill. If it passes and Gov. Scott Walker signs it into law (which seems likely unless we all take action - see the end of this article to learn what you can do), injured people will suffer, health care costs will rise, and those who choose to ignore the law and fail to purchase insurance will benefit. And all of that will happen just so insurance companies can increase their profits and protect their bottom lines.
After reading more about the proposed law, please take action and contact your legislators via the instructions below. By taking just a few minutes now, you could save your family thousands of dollars in the future.
Insurance Companies Are Trying To Change The Law, Even If It Means You Will Suffer
Last December, a bill (AB-539/SB-405) was introduced that could have far-reaching effects on individuals and families in Wisconsin. A memo from the Wisconsin Association for Justice notes, "Despite the fact that Wisconsin has among the lowest liability insurance rates in the country and among the highest health insurance rates, there is reason to believe legislators are strongly considering this change."
The Current Law
All quoted information below comes from the Wisconsin Association for Justice.
"Currently, Wisconsin law allows you to recover the full value of the medical bills connected with your case. Because you work and spend your hard-earned money paying for medical insurance, you deserve the benefit of the coverage you buy. In return for your money and hard work, your health insurer often negotiates with healthcare providers to pay less than the billed amount. What results is a discount you paid for and that you earned.
Under current law, the at-fault driver does not get a discount because you worked hard and bought medical insurance. Instead, they must pay the full bill, regardless of what your health insurance paid."
For example: Under the current law, if you had $100,000 in medical bills and your health insurance paid $65,000, you could recover $100,000 - the full cost of your medical bills.
When your claim is complete, you pay back your health insurance provider the $65,000 it provided. This system keeps medical costs low and fairly compensates those who are injured, and you are the one who benefits from having health insurance.
The Proposed Law
"The proposed new law will allow the insurance company for the person that hit you to discount the money they owe you for your injuries. This harms responsible, hardworking Wisconsinites like you, who have planned ahead and worked hard to purchase health insurance. Because the bill will allow evidence of what your [health] insurance paid, it will allow the at-fault driver's insurance company to argue that the bills that piled up from your injuries were fraudulent charges. After they have done that, others like you who have health insurance will be paid less for their injuries than citizens who do not."
Another example: Like in the last scenario, you have $100,000 in medical bills, and your health insurance paid $65,000. If the law changes, the claim will be reduced and you will recover only $65,000 (the amount the insurer paid) instead of $100,000 (the full amount of your medical bills).
Even though you were paying premiums to your health insurance company for that discount, now the other driver who injured you gets the benefit, not you. This is true even if the at-fault driver doesn't have his or her own insurance! The result: Insurance companies pay less in total, and the at-fault party benefits from you being a responsible person who pays for insurance.
Who benefits? Insurance companies and irresponsible people who don't buy insurance, but still cause accidents. Who suffers? Honest, hardworking Wisconsinites.
What Can You Do To Stop This?
Act quickly! A final vote on this bill will take place in the next few weeks, and the governor is likely to sign it if it passes.
- Step one: Use this tool to determine the contact information for your state legislators.
- Step two: Use the template below in an email to those legislators, and tell them that you oppose this new legislation.
- Step three: After sending the email, follow up with a call so that they understand just how serious this issue is for their constituents.
- Step four: Share this article on Facebook and other social media outlets, and spread the word any other way that you can.
The clock is ticking, and we need to act now! Let's show our legislators that the money we make and the discounts we earn by being responsible citizens and buying insurance belong to us - not to large insurance companies that are trying to game the system.
Template Email Letter To Send To Your Legislators
Dear [Senator / Representative] _____________,
I write to urge you to oppose AB-539/SB-405 if the bill comes to a vote this session. I ask that you vote against any change to the collateral source rule, which has been the law in Wisconsin for over a century. Wisconsin has some of the lowest liability insurance rates and among the highest health insurance rates in the country.
This bill will increase health care costs at a time when families like mine are already paying too much. Make no mistake; this bill shifts millions in costs away from negligent drivers and their auto insurers onto health care insurers and providers.
If passed, AB-539/SB-405 will change Wisconsin's law regarding how juries determine the reasonable value of medical care when somebody is injured and files a lawsuit. The bill does this by allowing insurance company lawyers to attack medical charges as fraudulent. They will do this because they are trying to get the benefit of the health insurance discount I paid for. In short, this bill penalizes people who have worked hard to obtain health insurance and rewards insurance companies' most negligent drivers with lower damages. For example, a drunk driver would never be held fully responsible for the damages I suffer in an auto accident.
Every single year, Wisconsin residents like me spend millions of dollars to purchase health insurance to protect our families if we're seriously injured. When somebody else's negligence caused our injuries, our medical bills are paid by the health insurance we have obtained through hard work, planning, and sacrifice. This bill will take health insurance discounts I have paid for and earned and hand them to insurance companies behind negligent drivers.
I urge you to take a second look at this century-old law and vote against AB-539/SB-405.
Thank you for your time and consideration regarding this bill. I look forward to your response.