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Health Plans May Go After Victims Awards

Page history last edited by Steve Escher 13 years, 1 month ago

Concern That Insurers Will go after Victims’ Awards  


State lawmakers are trying to make sure that insurance companies can’t go after the money survivors have been awarded from the 35W bridge collapse. In response to rising health care costs, certain types of health plans are laying claim to money members have won in court or in other settlements. This could be due to medical bills, pain and suffering or other possible reasons. "I don’t think any of us are interested in setting up a fund to pay off insurance companies," said Representative Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who has introduced a bill to create a 9/11-style compensation system. The purpose of the fund is to compensate those for their pain and suffering, loss of a loved one and a variety of other reasons. Victims that get only part of what they are entitled to are in a sense being robbed. (2)


Jim Ridler, for example was involved in a motorcycle accident in southwestern Minnesota when an oncoming car swerved into his lane. He suffered broken bones in his neck, collarbone, pelvis, ribs and legs. Jim spent 7 seven months in the hospital recovering and had gone through eighteen surgeries. His comfort was knowing that he would be awarded $450,000 from an insurance settlement. Problem is that his health plan took 90 percent of the settlement to recoup what had been paid to cover medical bills. (1)


About 40 percent of Minnesotans are covered under these types of plans. These plans are typically self-insured and company sponsored. Depending on how the contracts are written up, these plans can take almost any amount recovered by individuals until the plan is paid back. Minnesotans that have health insurance plans governed by the state law have more protection in which case they can only claim money after the victims has been fully compensated. Depending on the type of insurance the victims of the 35W bridge collapse have may determine the amount of money they will be compensated. (2)


Lawmakers are brainstorming with attorneys about how they can keep the health plans from recovering money that is meant for the victims. They are trying to make up for the survivors’ financial losses and expenses. Local attorneys say that they are working more often to strike deals with health plans before deciding whether to sue. This may be more difficult in the case of the 35W bridge collapse if claims against the state are settled from a fund. (1)


According to Senator Ron Latz, "All we can do is try our best to formulate this compensation in such a way that money will be able to stay with the victims." Some ideas include depositing money in a way that it’s not directly in the survivor’s hands, getting waivers from health plans before paying victims or writing the law to bar health plans from recovering money and hoping that it will withstand any potential legal challenges. Jim Schwebel who represents two dozen bridge victims states, "If health plans want to come into federal court and sue suvivors to try to take away some of the compensation which they’ve received, they should be ashamed of themselves." Hopefully with the work of the lawmakers and attorneys, victims compensation will be protected and avoid them having to go to court to try to recover what is rightfully theirs. (1)







1. Louwagie, Pam. Will Insurers Go After 35W Bridge Victims' Awards? January 29, 2008. Star Tribune.


2. Associated Press. Lawmakers Try to Shield I-35 Bridge Settlements. January 29,2008. WCCO.com.

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