UPDATE: SB 421 was signed into law by OR Governor Kate Brown on June 20, 2019 and goes into effect January 1, 2020. THANK YOU to everyone who was a part of this effort. I am so proud that this law is a part of Seamus’s legacy. <heart emoji>

In Support of SB 421: Oregon Needs a Made Whole Statute

Click here for a downloadable .pdf version of this page

Click here to view the bill’s progress in the Oregon Legislative Information System.

Click here for coverage of SB 421 in Willamette Week.

A made whole statute would prevent health insurance companies from collecting damages from the at-fault driver in an auto accident until the accident victims are fully compensated for their losses (or “made whole”).

Why this matters for families in Oregon

Oregon law permits health insurance companies to collect pain and suffering settlements from the at-fault driver in an auto accident—a practice known as subrogation. Accident victims may have crippling out-of-pocket expenses, life-altering injuries, and ongoing healthcare needs, but they are only entitled to a settlement after their health insurer is fully compensated for their accident-related expenses. In cases where hospital stays are involved, there is almost never money left over for victims.

Background

Oregon is one of only a handful of states that allow health insurers to collect pain and suffering settlements from at-fault drivers before victims are compensated. More than twenty states including Washington, Montana, Colorado, and Utah have made whole statutes, and six states ban the practice of subrogation altogether. In 2015, Oregon passed SB 411—a made whole statute that applied only to auto insurance. The bill earned bipartisan support. It is time to expand the made whole statute to include health insurers.

My story

Seamus in August, 2010 on a family vacation in Montana

Seamus in August, 2010 on a family vacation in Montana

In 2010, my husband Eric and our son Seamus were struck by a careless driver in a crosswalk near our home. Eric sustained minor injuries, and Seamus died the next day after enduring two surgeries and a night in intensive care. Our hospital bills totaled $180,000, and though most of it was covered by health insurance, we still had thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical expenses. My husband needed ongoing care for his injuries and we both required time off work and therapy to cope with PTSD. We counted on an insurance settlement from the at-fault driver to cover these expenses. However, we soon learned that our health insurer was entitled to reimbursement out of these funds, effectively reducing our settlement to $0. I urge lawmakers to support a made whole statute in Oregon to protect families from this devastating situation.

A made whole statute will ensure that families in Oregon affected by automobile crashes have meaningful protection from economic ruin.