In reading the Westchester Med. Ctr. v Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co., 2009 NY Slip Op 02589 (2d Dept. 2009) case that involved the validity of a denial based upon workers compensation primacy, it appeared (at first blush) that the providers obtained a true victory against the carriers. Whereas compensation is somewhat consistent with managed health care, no-fault is the exact opposite. Furthermore, the scope of medical services compensated under no-fault is far greater than the services reimbursed under Workers Compensation. One only needs to ask a certain bunch of attorneys who are fighting this exact issue in the context of whether a Licensed Massage Therapist may receive compensation under no-fault for rendered services inasmuch as the same services are not compensable under Workers Compensation. This same battle arises in the realm of acupuncture that an L.AC performs and services a chiropractor renders outside the chiropractor fee schedule.
But, does this also mean that “priority of coverage” issues may also be subject to the 30-day pay or deny rule? Let me rephrase this statement. Does this mean that a primacy of coverage defense may be adjudicated in court or arbitration against a Claimant, because another insurance carrier might be primary?
Here are two examples. 1) John Doe, a Geico insured, is involved in a motor vehicle accident while occupying an Elrac rental vehicle in New York. Or, 2) John Doe, while in a Elrac vehicle is in an accident in Montana.
Under scenerio “1”, Elrac is primary. Under scerio “2”, Geico is primary. Simply put, the rule in New york is that coverage follows the vehicle, except that when the accident occurs outside NEw York, it follows the person.
Medical provider submits bills to Geico under scenerio #1 and Elrac in scenerio #2. Both of the carriers the bills were submitted to are not the first in line under a priority of payment analysis. Geico in example #1 and Elrac in example #2 timely denies the bills. Now what?
Under conventional wisdom, issues involving primacy of payment must be adjudicated in 5105 mandatory arbitration. See, 65-3.12; SZ Medical, P.C. v. Lancer Ins. Co., 7 Misc.3d 8 (App. Term 2d Dept. 2005). In other words, the secondary carrier must adjust the claim in the normal and ordinary course of business and then seek reimbursement against the primary carrier through intercompany arbitration. The SOL would be three years from the payment, so it cannot be said that the carrier should be too unhappy with this result. Motor Vehicle Acc. Indemnification Corp. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. 89 N.Y.2d 214 (1997).
Under the current system, money from the secondary insurer would have to be paid out on the front end, but may be recovered on the back end.
Now, because of the Westchester Case, it appears that priority of payment issues may be raised and defended at any time through a timely denial. Thus, next time I receive a denial when there is a primary of payment issue, maybe I actually have a defense? So, you can say this is the other side of the two-way street…
Be careful what you wish for.
Westchester Med. Ctr. v Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co.
2009 NY Slip Op 02589 (2d Dept. 2009)
This case has a few issues. The first issue can be resolved relatively easily. Factually, the carrier apparently failed to indicate to the provider the specific person from whom verification was sought. This defect rendered the EUO scheduling letters and the ensuing denials improper. The cases the Westchester court cited explain this principle quite well. To explain for those unfamiliar with this concept, a delay letter has to say what you are delaying for and who you are seeking the information from. The letters have to be highly specific, lest you wish to be subject to Presbyterian preclusion.
The better issue is the Workers Comp issue. The Court, for the first time that I can remember, is apparently holding that a Workers Comp denial must be timely. The Court fails to consider Workers Comp as a coverage issue. This is problematic, because I believe the law is clear.
In O’Hurley-Pitts v. Diocese of Rockville Centre 57 A.D.3d 633 (2d Dept. 2008), the Court held as follows:
“The Court of Appeals has held that the Workers’ Compensation Board “has primary jurisdiction over the issue of the availability of [workers’ compensation] coverage,” and if a plaintiff fails to litigate that issue before the Board, “the court should not express an opinion as to the availability of compensation but remit the matter to the Board,” since “[t]he compensation claim is a jurisdictional predicate to the civil action” (Liss v Trans Auto Sys., 68 NY2d 15, 21 ; see Botwinick v Ogden, 59 NY2d 909 ; O’Rourke v Long, 41 NY2d 219 ). Accordingly, in considering the defendants’ motion, the Supreme Court should not have entertained their contention that the plaintiff was barred from recovery pursuant to Workers’ Compensation Law § 11. The case must be referred to the Workers’ Compensation Board for a determination as to whether the plaintiff has a valid cause of action for damages or whether he is relegated to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Law”
The Regulation states the following:
11 NYCRR Sec. 65-3.9(a)(9): “Pursuant to section 5102(b)(2) of the Insurance Law, when the applicant is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits due to the same accident, the workers’ compensation carrier shall be the sole source of reimbursement for medical expenses.”
I believe the Appellate Division messed up. I just hope a good record was preserved.