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Malpractice awards may be subject to Medicaid claims

New Jersey residents may be interested in learning about the actions that are sometimes taken by states to reclaim funds from patients who have had medical treatment paid for by Medicaid. The Oregon Department of Human Services recently filed a lien against a medical malpractice award made to a woman who suffered injuries after doctors failed to accurately diagnose her condition.

The woman suffered a stroke in 2010 after being admitted to a hospital emergency room. Her subsequent $32.5 million lawsuit alleged negligence on the part of the hospital and three of its doctors. The stroke caused major neurological damage and left her with only partial use of her arms and legs. As a result, she is unable to live independently, requires around-the-clock care and uses a motorized chair to move around. She was 27 years old when she suffered the stroke.

The state of Oregon is claiming that $236,000 of the woman's settlement should be allocated to reimburse the state's taxpayers for Medicaid funds used to pay for her treatment and convalescence in 2010 and 2011. This kind of effort is not unusual when state funds have been used to provide certain benefits, and action is normally triggered by a substantial improvement in the patient's financial situation.

While some may agree that Oregon's taxpayers should be repaid, the case does raise questions about medical malpractice lawsuits. A medical malpractice attorney could adjust the amount of the suit to anticipate these potential complications. Victims of hospital and doctor errors frequently require additional medical care, and malpractice awards and settlements could take these costs into consideration.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Suit Disputes Oregon’s Claim in Malpractice Award", October 23, 2013

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