Governor Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 011 into law earlier this month giving Colorado motorists access to a valuable avenue for paying for medical expenses in the event they are injured in an auto accident.
In the past four years since the legislature repealed the No-Fault Act (which previously required that you purchase medical insurance to cover your accident-related medical expenses) accident victims have found out all too late that they are unable to get medical treatment that they need after an accident.
Under the new law (now codified as C.R.S. Sec. 10-4-635, et. seq.) auto insurance companies must now offer $5,000 of medical payments (“med-pay”) coverage to Colorado policyholders. Those consumers who do not need this coverage are not forced to pay extra for benefits that they will not use – they can simply opt to decline such coverage much as they do for Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage today.
However, most Colorado motorists would benefit from having this additional coverage added as a part of their auto insurance policies in some degree. The following guidelines should help you in determining how much Medical Payments coverage you should choose under your policy:
1. Drivers Without Health Insurance: If you do not currently have health insurance this auto med-pay coverage may be the only way you would be able to pay for your medical care after an auto accident – even if the accident was not your fault. Most doctors and medical providers will not see a patient if they do not have insurance unless it is a life or death emergency. If you are not covered by health insurance you absolutely should purchase med-pay coverage under your auto policy. In fact, I recommend that you purchase as much coverage as your auto carrier allows.
2. Drivers With Health Insurance That Excludes Coverage For Auto Accidents: In the last few years, health insurance companies have started to limit their responsibility for paying for accident-related medical care by excluding such coverage from their policy. This means that you will have to pay for accident related medical care out of your own pocket. Unfortunately, many people do not find out that they have such a policy until it is too late and they have already been injured in an accident. It is very important for you to read your policy and see if there is such an exclusion included. If so, you also need to purchase as much auto med-pay as possible.
3. Drivers With Large Deductible Health Insurance: Anyone whose health insurance does not step in and pay benefits until a high deductible threshold has been met should secure med-pay coverage to cover the out-of-pocket expenses or deductibles not paid by their health policy. For instance, many catastrophic health policies will not pay any of the first $10,000.00 in medical expenses incurred in an accident. These drivers should purchase enough coverage to cover this gap.
4. Drivers Whose Health Policies Limit Physical Therapy Coverage: Many group policies in Colorado limit the number of therapy visits that an insured can have for any one condition in a policy year. If your policy only allows 20 physical therapy visits each year, it may be helpful to have a small amount of med-pay coverage to ensure that additional therapy visits will not have to be paid out-of-pocket.
5. Drivers Who Want Zero Out-of-Pocket Liability: Even if you have a good health insurance policy with low deductibles – you can spend hundreds of dollars meeting your deductible or in co-pays. Med-pay coverage can help bridge this gap and make sure that you will not have any out-of-pocket liability.