Salem attorney William R. Dimento recently received a public reprimand (No. 2013-6) by the Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) for both his failure to properly settle a Medicare lien and his repeated misrepresentation to his client that he was working to have the lien resolved when, in fact, he lacked the expertise to handle the lien.
In 2007, Attorney Dimento was retained to represent a former client with her personal injury case, despite the fact that he did not have a personal injury background, his practice primarily being focused on land use matters.
In September of 2008, Attorney Dimento settled the case with the insurer for $150,000. Because Medicare had paid the client’s medical expenses related to the accident, it was entitled to recover the amount it had paid out less a share of Attorney Dimento’s legal fees. The insurer refused to issue a settlement check because Attorney Dimento advised that he was attempting to settle the Medicare lien. Due to his lack of experience, he never requested an itemization of the medical expenses paid by Medicare for the accident, nor did he submit any settlement proposals to Medicare. As a result of his inaction, he never settled the Medicare lien.
When his client died in January of 2009, never having received payment on her claim, her daughter was appointed administratrix of her estates. From 2009 until late 2012, she repeatedly requested information about the status of the Medicare lien. Attorney Dimento continued to claim he was working on the lien even though he took no meaningful steps toward resolution during this period.
Finally, in December 2012, Attorney Dimento hired a personal injury attorney who was able to settle the Medicare lien immediately for $3,688.31. Its conduct was reported to the Board of Bar Overseers who issued a Public Reprimand.
There are a number of possible avenues for negotiating down Medicare’s lien. While many potential personal injury clients are not too pleased to hear they must repay Medicare, the penalties for not doing so are significant for both the Medicare beneficiary as well as the attorney and insurance companies involved in the case. It’s important to consult with an attorney with settlement planning experience, not only to properly negotiate and reimburse Medicare or MassHealth for payments made prior to settlement, but also to ensure Medicare’s interests are protected should there be additional medical expenses associated with the injury that arise in the future.
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