On July 1, 2023, significant changes to the Georgia hospital lien law (O.C.G.A. §44-14-470 through §44-14-477) took effect. The new law, enacted at Senate Bill 168 expands the scope of healthcare providers who can assert liens to include chiropractors, in addition to hospitals, nursing homes, physician practices, and traumatic burn care medical practices. The law also requires those filing liens to first submit their bills to the injured person’s health insurers in order to have liens that are legally defensible.
The “new” requirement that healthcare providers first file with insurance should not be a truly new practice to most Georgia medical providers who treat those with emergent conditions where liability may be involved. The reason for this is the surprise medical billing legislation that has taken effect over the past couple of years on both the state and federal levels. Best practices would suggest that those who treat patients who are in emergent conditions and who also protect their balances with liens first file claims with relevant insurers regardless of insurer participating status. The purpose of this act is to allow the patient to realize the benefit of their health coverage and also to determine patient exposure. Medical providers, now including chiropractors, should also be aware of changes to the new law so that they can ensure that their liens are enforceable.
What is a hospital lien?
A hospital lien, also sometimes referred to as a medical provider lien, is a legal claim that a hospital has against the financial proceeds of a patient’s personal injury claim. This means that the hospital can recover the costs of the patient’s medical care from the proceeds of any settlement or judgment that the patient receives from the person or entity responsible for their injuries.
Who can file a hospital lien in Georgia?
Under the new law, the following healthcare providers can file a hospital lien in Georgia:
- Nursing homes
- Physician practices
- Chiropractic practices
- Traumatic burn care medical practices
How do I file a hospital lien in Georgia?
To file a hospital lien in Georgia, the healthcare provider must file a Notice of Lien with the clerk of the court in the county where the patient resides or where the patient’s personal injury claim is pending. The Notice of Lien must include the following information:
- The name and address of the healthcare provider
- The name and address of the patient
- The dates of the patient’s treatment
- The total amount of the patient’s bill
- A statement that the healthcare provider is asserting a lien against the patient’s personal injury claim and not against the person or their property
What are the new requirements for filing a hospital lien in Georgia?
Under the new law, healthcare providers must now submit their bills to the injured person’s health insurers before attempting to enforce a hospital lien. If the health insurers reject the bill or legitimately leave a portion of the bill as patient responsibility, the healthcare provider can then file a lien to protect the amount that is still owed by the patient.
This new requirement is designed to protect patients from being liable for medical bills that should have been covered by their health insurance, and the law in general is designed to allow medical providers to secure amounts owed through settlements that include funds earmarked for those providers.
What are the implications of the new changes to the Georgia Hospital Lien Law?
The new changes to the Georgia Hospital Lien Law have significant implications for both patients and healthcare providers.
For patients, the new law provides additional protections from being liable for medical bills that should have been covered by their health insurance.
For healthcare providers, the new law expands the scope of providers who can assert liens to Chiropractors. However, the new law also requires providers to submit their bills to health insurers before filing a lien (which ideally would have been happening prior to these changes).
What should I do if I have a question about the new Georgia Hospital Lien Law?
If you are a medical provider with a question about the new Georgia Hospital Lien Law, you should consult with an experienced Hospital Lien / Provider Lien attorney. An attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities under the new law and can assist you with filing or disputing a hospital lien. Thomas O’Brien at O’Brien & Feiler has worked with the lien law for nearly two decades and may be reached through his website.