I have a client who had her bills paid by TRICARE. Is this treated the same as Medicare in that we have an obligation to notify TRICARE about the case and obtain a lien amount?
The U.S. military's rights arise under the Medical Care Recovery Act (42 U.S.C. Sections 2651-53). The MCRA states that when the Federal Government provides treatment or pays for treatment of an individual who is injured or suffers a disease, the Government is authorized to recover the reasonable value of that treatment from any third party legally liable for the injury or disease. The statute provides an independent right of recovery, but only for those payments actually made. The statute does not contemplate any recovery for future payments to be made. (32 C.F.R. Section 757.14(a) and (d)).
Each service branch has a slightly different model agreement, but the basics are all here, namely, that:
1.the federal government has a right to assert a separate cause of action to recover for injury-related care paid by TRICARE/CHAMPUS on a conditional basis;
2.federal law precludes the service branch from being able to hire civilian counsel so they ask for counsel to sign an agreement, protecting the military's interests;
3.the primary benefit to the agreement is the access to medical records to help prove the case, provided there is reasonable advance notice (two weeks);
4.the primary drawback is the regular status reports (which is not a large time commitment, but is an added step to settling a Tricare case);
5.absent this agreement, the govt. can intervene in your action, causing more grief than it is worth (in not signing the agreement); and
6.there is nothing unusual about the language of the agreement. We can send relevant statutes for your review, noting the agreement is consistent with federal law.
Hope this helps.
Matt Garretson, Esq.