What is a Health Care Lawyer?
The term health care lawyer is often used to describe an attorney who works with providers and insurers. They help them comply with laws and regulations, draft policies and contracts, and settle disputes or lawsuits.
More generally, a health care lawyer is anyone working in the broad area of the law that covers health care. In addition to working for the providers and insurers, they help patients and their families navigate the system, resolve disputes, and take legal actions when they are harmed or have their rights violated.
What Do Health Care Lawyers Do?
Health care lawyers who work with hospitals, insurance companies, physician groups, pharmacies, and other companies provide several services:
- Handle legal business issues, such as business organization, taxes, contracts, and employee benefits
- Advise on compliance with health care laws and regulations
- Assess risk management
- Manage confidentiality and patient privacy issues
- Defense against claims of medical malpractice, fraud, or abuse
- Assist in non-payment of services cases
For patients, health care lawyers have a more individual focus, assisting clients and their families with several issues:
- Insurance disputes over payment and coverage
- Unfair denial of insurance coverage
- Discrimination in the health care setting
- Violations of the privacy of personal information and medical records
- Planning for long term care, living wills, and advanced medical directives
- Elder care abuse and fraud
- Medical malpractice
- Social Security and disability benefits denials
Who Needs a Health Care Lawyer?
Professionals working in health care often need a lawyer, especially organizations like hospitals, medical centers, and physician offices. Individual medical workers don’t need a lawyer unless facing charges of abuse, negligence, discrimination, or failure to comply with regulations.
Patients can benefit from a health care lawyer’s services when facing any conflict or issue in health care with a legal aspect. If you aren’t sure whether you need a lawyer, an expert health care attorney can advise you.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Health Care Issue?
There are several benefits of working with a health care lawyer when you have a legal issue related to medical care or insurance. It’s worth seeking out an expert in this field of the law rather than relying on a general lawyer or someone with another area of specialty.
- Targeted, expert advice
Only a lawyer who focuses on health care law can give the advice you need. They understand the many laws that apply, including state and local laws where you live. They have experience helping patients but also understand the other side, insurers, and health care providers.
- An explanation of your rights
People often have a poor understanding of their rights in the health care system. Several laws protect your privacy rights, to be free from discrimination, and to access health insurance, among other rights. A health care lawyer can help you understand these rights so that you can make better choices.
- An ally against big companies
Taking legal action against a big insurer or a medical center is an overwhelming task. It’s nearly impossible for an individual to succeed, but if you have a health care lawyer to represent you and advocate on your behalf, it becomes a lot easier.
- Legal action when necessary
It makes sense to take legal action and either file a complaint or a lawsuit in some situations. This is necessary in the worst situations: elder abuse or neglect in a health care setting, medical malpractice, discrimination.
- A plan for the future
Health care is an important part of planning for getting older. A lawyer can help you plan your own living will and medical directives or plan for care for an older loved one. Planning now with an expert will give you peace of mind.
How to Find a Health Care Lawyer
If you think you have a legal issue related to health care, look for a firm or an attorney specializing in this area of the law. You can also seek out someone even more specialized. For instance, if you think you have a medical malpractice case, you can find lawyers who focus entirely on these cases.
Avoid any firm that primarily works with and for the big health care companies. Lawyers representing insurers and health care providers do very different work than those representing clients. Find a few lawyers you think can help you and line up interviews to help make your decision. Important questions to ask include:
- How long have you been working in health care law?
- Do you mostly represent patients, or do you also work with health care providers?
- Do you have an area of specialty in health care law?
- Have you handled a case like mine?
- Do you have experience litigating?
- Can you give me references from past clients?
- How long do you think my case will take, and do you think my goals are reasonable?
- What are your fees?
What Does My Health Care Lawyer Need from Me?
To get the best outcome, it’s important that you work as a partner with your lawyer. They have the legal expertise, but they need information from you and guidance on what to do. Provide your lawyer with all the documents and information they request.
This may include medical records, bills and receipts, and other legal documents. Be honest about everything you tell your lawyer, and don’t hold back. They cannot use the information without your permission, but they also cannot do their job without knowing everything about the situation.
Your lawyer will also need you to be communicative and easy to reach. Be prepared to ask and answer questions and to stay up to date on your case so you can decide what steps to take.
Working with a health care lawyer may be necessary if you face a legal situation or a conflict when getting care, dealing with an insurance company, or facing privacy, discrimination, or other issues.