3 Steps to Take When Your Primary Care Physician Turns You Down
Every year more than three million Americans are injured in car accidents. Many of those victims turn to their primary care physician for treatment due to their comfort level with their own doctor, but also to avoid the risk of potentially high hospital emergency room bills. An increasing number of those victims, however, are surprised to learn their primary care physician may not treat them because the injuries were sustained in a car accident.
I’d like to briefly address why some physicians will not treat accident victims, but more importantly, what to do if you find yourself in this situation.
Federal law requires hospital emergency departments to treat individuals regardless of citizenship, legal status, insurance, or ability to pay (there are some exceptions). Doctors and other medical providers practicing outside of the hospital emergency department, however, are not subject to these laws and are thus free to choose which patients they wish to treat, or not treat, including accident victims.
Before you get too upset with your doctor, you must recognize car accidents can create insurance and payment headaches for your doctor. Most doctors’ offices are set up to bill a patient’s health insurance. For accident-related injuries, however, other forms of payment are often involved such as automobile insurance, medical payments, and others. Additionally, some doctors have found health insurers reject payment for accident-related treatment. For doctors, these factors can impact how they are paid, when they are paid, and even the amount your they are paid for providing treatment. Given these unknowns, some doctors choose not to get involved and implement office-wide “no car accident” policies.
Some doctors have other concerns as well. For instance, some accident-related injuries may fall outside your primary physician’s expertise such that he or she may not feel comfortable offering treatment. Similarly, some doctors don’t want to risk getting involved in litigation that could require extra time and paperwork. Ultimately, all you need to understand is that your doctor can legally choose not to treat accident victims, and that decision is NOT a personal attack against you.
With that understanding, let’s focus on what to do if your doctor will not treat you. Here are three tips to help you.
Don’t Delay- Be Proactive in Seeking Necessary Medical Treatment
The most important thing to do after an accident is to seek necessary medical treatment - and the sooner the better. Your health takes priority, so if your doctor won’t treat you, find one that will. That requires you to be proactive, so resist the urge to delay looking for another medical provider. Timing is critical to a good long-term outcome.
As a starting point, if it is an emergency go to the closest hospital emergency room because they will provide treatment to you. If it is not an emergency, here are some suggestions for finding a doctor to help you: Ask friends, family members, or co-workers if they have a doctor they recommend after an accident. You will be surprised at how many others have had the same problem. So, try asking around. Also, search online, call local doctor offices, ask your insurance agent, check with walk-in clinics, or even ask your doctor for a recommendation. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Some medical providers and health insurers are now even offering telemedicine in which medical care can be delivered by live interactive videoconferencing with a physician through your smartphone -- and oftentimes for much cheaper than a typical doctor examination. Try googling “telemedicine providers” to learn more about telemedicine. The point is, there are options for obtaining medical treatment, but you have to be proactive.
Here’s a bonus tip to help your chances of getting treatment: offer to use your personal health insurance for payment. Some providers will treat you even if your injuries resulted from an accident if they know you have health insurance.
Consider a Chiropractor
Chiropractors are typically experienced in not only treating injuries associated with accidents, such as neck and back pain, but they are often more comfortable in dealing with the claims process associated with accidents. I highly recommend chiropractors and put them right at the top of options to consider for post-accident treatment. If you require more advanced treatment, many chiropractors are able to refer to other specialists such as an orthopedic surgeon.
Engage an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Finally, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you find medical help. When I begin working with accident victims, we start by making sure he or she is receiving the necessary medical treatment. Your health should always be the priority, so I want to be sure we start there.
At The Injury and Disability Law Center we have a network of physicians and chiropractors who treat our accident clients even if they aren’t using health insurance or can’t pay out of pocket, because they’re confident we will work hard to protect their interests (i.e. make sure they get paid). By understanding the concerns/risks of your medical providers in treating an accident victim, we help address those issues by communicating well, offering a variety of solutions for payment, and most importantly ensuring your medical provider is not penalized by helping you. There may even be occasions when we provide “Letters of Protection” to your medical providers, which means we agree to make sure they are paid out of any recovery made on your behalf. In short, we do everything we can to help you get the treatment you need. Timely medical treatment is not only important for your health, but it has significant implications on your legal claim as well.
So, while it may be surprising or even frustrating when your doctor won’t treat you after an accident, don’t give up, you have options. If you need help, call us at The Injury and Disability Law Center at 575-300-4000.