As attorneys representing injured clients, we have become intimately familiar with recently enacted Medicare legislation and the resulting impact on our practice. However, I am increasingly surprised by the number of attorneys who fail to inform their clients of the practical implications that this legislation will have on their case. At Stark & Stark, we believe that communication plays a vital role in a healthy attorney-client relationship. To this end, we make it a priority to discuss the impact of Medicare with all Medicare eligible clients at the onset of their case.
First and foremost, if you have received Medicare benefits for treatment of your injuries, it is important to be aware that Medicare has an absolute right to recover these payments upon resolution of your case. This will ultimately serve to reduce the amount of your recovery and it is certainly a factor that needs to be considered in evaluating your case.
It is also important to be aware of the fact that the involvement of Medicare can significantly delay the timing of your recovery. In order to speed up the process, it is essential that you inform your attorney that you are a Medicare recipient as early as possible. This will allow your attorney to open up a dialogue with Medicare at an early stage in the proceedings in an effort to determine the amount that Medicare is ultimately entitled to recover. As you continue treatment for your injuries, this amount is likely to increase; however, opening up an early dialogue with Medicare will provide your attorney with a ballpark figure that will be helpful when attempting to resolve your case.
Once your case is resolved, your attorney is required to notify Medicare of the settlement/award amount along with the associated attorney’s fees and costs. Based upon these figures, Medicare will generally agree to reduce their recovery by some amount. However, you must be aware that you will not receive your recovery until your attorney receives a finalized figure from Medicare. While Medicare estimates that it will take approximately 35 days to provide this information, I have seen it take in excess of two months. Generally, there is nothing that can be done to speed up this process and some patience is required. At Stark & Stark, we find that increasing client awareness regarding the Medicare recovery process makes these delays far more tolerable.