Legislature(1995 - 1996)
05/03/1996 01:30 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSHB 306(JUD) PHYSICIAN'S LIENS MARVEEN COGGINS, staff to Representative Toohey, sponsor of HB 306, explained current statute allows a hospital or licensed special nurse who gives medical care to a patient for a traumatic injury to place a lien on any sum awarded to the injured person, however physicians do not have the same statutory right. HB 306 addresses that section of statute that has not been changed since Statehood. It adds physicians to those who can file liens to get third party reimbursement for services rendered. Further changes were made in the House Judiciary Committee pertaining to update the lien statutes in general. The time period in which to file a lien was extended from 15 to 90 days after the injury or discharge from the hospital. It requires a general description of services rendered rather than an itemized statement. It requires the lien to be filed in the recorder's office, but deletes the requirement that it be filed in the recording district or borough in which the injury occurred. With modern computerization, when a lien is filed in any recording office, it can be found in the state's centralized index system. It deletes the requirement that the copy of the liens sent by mail be certified, and repeals a section about lien dockets, no longer used. HB 306 has a zero fiscal note and passed the House unanimously. SENATOR GREEN verified this only adds to the present description the word "physician." MS. COGGINS agreed, except for the changes to update the lien statute. SENATOR MILLER disagreed, and noted Section 3 expands the number of days in which the lien can be filed, and no longer requires an itemized statement, just a statement of general services, which he believed to be a dramatic expansion. MS. COGGINS commented she worked with an attorney, Peter Ashenbrenner, who does a lot of lien work, on this bill. Regarding Section 3, the extension of the lien filing time, 15 days was thought to be too short a time frame because a hospital staff has to screen for the patients who are victimized by traumatic injury and then identify the place of injury. Regarding the itemized statement, that statement was more like a hospital bill, and there was concern that the statement could reveal confidential information. A general statement can be more informative than an itemized one. Contractors provide a general description of the labor and materials, services, or equipment provided. It renders unnecessary the questionable practice of filing in the public record the itemized billing statement. The filing location requirement was changed only to update the statute to what is current practice using the centralized computer system. Number 175 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR stated he discussed this bill with Mr. Ashenbrenner because of concerns about piggybacking. If a physician and the hospital piggybacked their lien claims onto the plaintiff's case, once the case was over, and all of the work had been paid for by other people, the doctor could come forward and ask for 100 percent payment without sharing in any of the costs associated with the judgment. Mr. Ashenbrenner prepared a detailed memo clarifying that there is sufficient case law so that if a doctor checks the central filing and determines a lien has been place, the doctor must join in the settlement process to be reimbursed. In most cases the doctor will still receive 100 percent, but in a case where there is not enough money to pay for all medical bills, the physician or hospital will have to participate in whatever the original contingency contract. This bill will become an effective tool for physicians to use to get their bills paid. Hospitals and nurses seldom took advantage of the lien rights they had because of the difficulty in filing under the limited time constraints. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR referred to a discussion of the Noreen case contained in committee members' packets that clearly indicates physicians would have to pay for their participation in the judgment. Number 242 SENATOR GREEN moved CSHB 306(JUD) from committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, the motion carried. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR announced the committee is awaiting a Senate Judiciary committee substitute for HB 372 which will be heard at the soonest possible date, and adjourned the meeting.