By: Porter Leslie
The combination of professional administration with a structured settlement (annuity) is often the best way to protect an injured party’s settlement dollars in the event of an unexpectedly very costly year due to higher-than-anticipated medical needs after settlement. The combination of these services in a costly scenario allows the injured party to access more coverage from Medicare and pay less out of their own pocket.
What Is Professional Administration?
Professional administration involves the use of a professional third party to help manage the injured party’s medical settlement funds or Medicare Set Aside (MSA) after settlement. “Professional administration achieves two important goals,” says Marques Torbert, CEO of Ametros. “It saves the injured party significant money on their medical expenses by providing them with access to discounted medical network prices, and it ensures that all their reporting to Medicare for a Medicare Set Aside account is done properly.”
When an MSA account runs out of funds and reaches a zero-dollar account balance, as long as it is administered properly Medicare agrees to step in as the secondary payer covering the continuing and needed medical expenses. Medicare “highly recommends” the use of professional administration to make sure that funds are extended as long as possible through discounts, used appropriately for medical care and ultimately reported properly so that Medicare will know when to step in as the payer.
What Is a Structured Settlement?
A structured settlement is a stream of periodic payments paid to an injured party by the defendant primarily through the purchase of annuity (fixed and determinable) issued directly by highly rated life insurance companies. In the case of an MSA, the annuity will enable the issuance of annual payments that cover the entire MSA amount. As Eric Vaughn, executive director of the National Structured Settlements Trade Association, explains, “Structured settlements provide an injured party with a reliable, stable source of income which can be critical to cover their ongoing medical costs. A structured settlement removes the variability of the markets and guesswork out of funding their future expenses.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS” or “Medicare”) is accustomed to the use of annuities with MSAs. Medicare has provided clear guidelines for how the MSA should be set up when annuities are involved, with two years of costs funded upfront and the rest of the cost broken out annually over the injured person’s lifetime. When an MSA is sent to Medicare for approval, Medicare will review and approve MSAs with structures.
When assessing future medical costs in an MSA, it’s important to take a very conservative approach. Using a structured settlement and professional administration for the MSA can provide valuable protection to an injured party should they have a costly year. The combination of these services will allow the injured party to properly get coverage from Medicare in the event their MSA funds run out. That Medicare coverage can, in many cases, ensure that the injured person pays less out of their own pocket. As Vaughn points out, “Annuities are a natural fit with MSAs, given the annual medical expenses are already budgeted over the individual’s lifetime.” Torbert adds, “Attorneys and adjusters alike are recognizing the power of combining the annuity with administration not only to assist the injured party in saving money, but also to provide them with support for their medical care over the long run.”
It’s important to keep in mind, not all professional administrators and annuities are the same. Choose an administrator that provides the best service and saves the injured party most on medical expenses. When choosing annuities, it’s important to work with a trusted broker and to select a reliable, highly rated life insurance company. Speak with experts in both administration and structures to make sure you and your client make the right selection to ensure you have the most financial protection.
Article first appeared in insurancethoughtleadership.com