Veterans of the United States Armed Forces have access to a wide variety of medical care through the Veterans’ Administration. When that treatment is necessary because of an auto accident, it can pit the U.S. government against no-fault auto insurers to determine who pays the bill.
This post reviews the recently published Michigan Court of Appeals case, Batts v. Titan Insurance Co, Docket No. 335656. Mr. Batts was a military veteran who was riding his motor scooter when a car ran a stop sign and struck him in a hit-and-run collision. As a veteran, he received some of this treatment from VA medical providers. Mr. Batts filed a claim with the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan, but the assigned insurance provider refused to pay, citing coordination laws and Mr. Batt’s VA benefits.
Michigan No-Fault Law Covers All Victims Of Auto Accidents
Michigan law protects the victims of auto accidents even when they don’t own a vehicle. Passengers bicyclists, scooter riders, and pedestrians sometimes don’t have access to a no-fault auto insurance policy of their own or in their households. When they are injured in a motor vehicle accident, they can file a claim for no-fault benefits with the company that covers the driver or vehicle that hit them. If there is no other policy available, these accident victims can file with the Assigned Claims Facility to receive benefits from one of the state’s insurance providers.
When Mr. Batts was hit, he didn’t have a no-fault insurance policy of his own, or access to one through a relative living in his household. Since the accident was a hit-and-run, he had no way to file a claim with the driver’s insurance company, or the company covering the vehicle. Instead, he filed to have his medical expenses, including attendant care, covered through the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan.
Coordinating Coverage With Health Insurance Is A Choice
Titan Insurance Company, the insurer assigned to Mr. Batt’s claim said it didn’t have to pay for his injuries because his claim should be “coordinated” with the medical benefits provided to him as a veteran by the VA.
When Michigan residents are injured in an auto accident, no-fault providers generally pay first, before health insurance companies. However, Michigan No-Fault law allows insurance providers to offer reduced-price plans to motorists who agree to “coordinate” their coverage with their medical insurance. In a coordinated policy, the auto insurance company only pays for the out-of-pocket costs left over after the person’s medical insurance has been billed. This includes deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance costs, as well as any specialty care only available out-of-network.
Titan said that, because Mr. Batts had medical benefits available through the VA, and his claim was filed as a last resort through the assigned claims facility, the no-fault benefits should be coordinated with the existing VA benefits. This would allow Titan to avoid paying for any care Batts could have received free of charge at a veteran’s hospital or related facility.
The court disagreed. The three-judge panel ruled that Mr. Batts had not voluntarily chosen to coordinate his coverage. The insurance company was not allowed to make that decision for him after the fact.
Veterans’ VA Benefits Are Not Health Insurance, Court Says
Titan also tried to avoid paying the United States government back for medical treatments it provided to Mr. Batts. According to Titan, these treatments were part of Mr. Batt’s VA benefits, and assigned claims are not available to pay for anything covered by any other form of insurance.
The court refused to recognize the VA as a health insurance company. Instead, it was “a medical provider of last resort for veterans unless they have a service-connected injury.” It also pointed to federal law that said the VA has the right to recover payment for non-service related medical care provided after an auto accident. The fact that Mr. Batts could go to a VA hospital did not make the VA a “benefit source” to forgive Titan from paying his PIP benefits.
Veterans often have access to additional care and treatment options through the Veterans Administration. But Batts v. Titan Ins. Co. makes clear that they still are entitled to no-fault benefits after an auto accident, even when the government provides the treatment.
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