03 April 2008

A chance for a small health care reform.

As you may know, a 52 year old Wal-Mart employee was severely injured in a semi-truck v. minivan crash and obtained $700,000 from the trucking company. Permanent brain damage is one of her injuries, so this money has to basically take care of her for the rest of her life.

Wal-Mart, as her health insurer, paid about $470,000 for her medical care. The piss-poor federal statute ERISA allows the health insurer to get *all* of this money back from *any*money recovered by the injured party--including money for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering--anything and everything.

The employee was left with about $417,000 after attorney fees and costs. The United States Court of Appeals upheld Wal-Mart's right to get all of this money and the US Supreme Court denied to rehear the case. That was technically the right decision because since a 2006 US Supreme Court decision the law on this recovery is pretty clear.

However, there was public outcry (as there should be) for this. And Wal-Mart decided to waive its right to take the money. Because of this outcry, there may be the chance to at least change the rule in ERISA that allows this craptacular-ness to occur.

Heck. Maybe there may be a chance to have ERISA serve a purpose other than screwing over consumers. Glory be!

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