Question: I am curious, does Medicare have the ability to recover costs from a beneficiary’s entire liability settlement, rather than only those settlement proceeds designated as compensation for medical expenses.
Answer: Medicare has priority right of recovery in all settlement, awards or judgments. In general, Medicare policy requires recovering payments from liability awards or settlements, whether the settlement arises from a personal injury action or a survivor action, without regard to how the settlement agreement stipulates disbursement should be made. That includes situations in which the settlements do not expressly include damages for medical expenses. Since liability payments are usually based on the injured or deceased person’s medical expenses, liability payments are considered to have been made “with respect to” medical services related to the injury even when the settlement does not expressly include an amount for medical expenses. To the extent that Medicare has paid for such services, the law obligates Medicare to seek recovery of its payments.
The only situation in which Medicare recognizes allocations of liability payments to non-medical losses is when payment is based on a court order on the merits of the case. If the court or other adjudicator of the merits specifically designate amounts that are for payment of pain and suffering or other amounts not related to medical services, Medicare will accept the Court’s designation. Medicare does not seek recovery from portions of court awards that are designated as payment for losses other than medical services. Section 1862(b)(2)(A)(ii) of the Social Security, Act [42 USC 1395 y(b)(2)], precludes Medicare payment for services to the extent that payment has been made or can reasonably be expected to be made promptly under liability insurance.