Medical Necessity

Experienced Counsel to Challenge the Denial of Your Required Medical Treatment

Alleged lack of “medical necessity” is one of the most common reasons cited by health insurers to deny medical services and treatment. Medical necessity is a peculiar concept, in that it allows health plans to weigh economic considerations against medical ones. That is a concern, because health plans are inherently conflicted, in that they both evaluate and pay claims. Thus, when health benefits are denied, how do you know the denial is valid and not simply an attempt to pad the insurer’s bottom line?  The lawyers at DeBofsky Law have experience spotting and challenging unjustified denials of health benefits and can counsel you as to your rights.

What Is Medical Necessity?

“Medical necessity” is usually defined as a medical service or treatment that is required and cannot safely be provided in a more efficient or more economical way. A hospitalization is medically necessary if the services cannot be provided on a less restrictive basis without adversely affecting the patient’s condition. Medical necessity provisions are usually found in the “exclusions” section of your health plan.

Medical necessity can be woven into health plans in other, less obvious ways. For example, a health plan may exclude “custodial care” or “maintenance care,” which is often defined as care that is not expected to improve the patient’s condition. Such provisions were called into question in Bedrick v. Travelers, 93 F.3d 149, 151 (4th Cir. 1996), which observed that, in the case of degenerative conditions, “It is as important not to get worse as to get better.” Thus, do not assume all hope is lost if your request for care is denied, i.e., it is deemed to be “custodial” or “maintenance” in nature.

Similarly, health plans often exclude coverage for weight loss surgery, cosmetic procedures, and other elective procedures on the grounds that those procedures are not medically necessary. But complications that arise from those procedures should be covered.  See Fuller v. CBT Corp., 905 F.2d 1055 (7th Cir. 1990) (“Now even if vasectomy reversal is not a covered procedure, an illness incident to the procedure—infection, complications, a iatrogenic injury, whatever—would be covered.”). Again, it is important to consult a benefits lawyer to know your rights.

How to Challenge a Denial Based on Medical Necessity

If your health claim has been denied due to alleged lack of medical necessity, you must act quickly to protect your rights. If the health plan is governed by ERISA, you generally have no more than 180 days to appeal. You must appeal the denial of benefits in a timely manner or you may forfeit your right to later bring a lawsuit.

Where a claim has been denied based on an alleged lack of medical necessity, usually the implication is that the patient’s underlying medical condition is not severe enough to justify the service or treatment.  To avoid or overcome a denial based on medical necessity, you should submit:

  • Complete medical records documenting the severity of your condition;
  • Letters of support from your treating doctors explaining why the care is medically necessary;
  • Medical journal articles and other resources addressing why a lesser level of care is inadequate;
  • Any other documentation your health plan requests and/or which might help your case.

You do not need a lawyer to appeal a denial of health benefits, but it may be prudent to hire one depending on the amount of money involved. A lawyer can help you to determine what additional evidence or argument is needed to perfect your appeal. A lawyer can also counsel you as to alternative methods of resolving the dispute, such as negotiating a reduction or payment plan with the provider.

Know Your Rights

Don’t just take the insurance company’s word that your treatment is not covered due to lack of “medical necessity.” Get the guidance you need to determine and prove that your treatment is required and the expert representation to receive the benefits you were promised.

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Should I Request External Review?

The Affordable Care Act mandates that health plans afford plan participants and beneficiaries an opportunity to seek independent external review of an adverse benefit determination.  45 CFR § 147.136. External review is not without risk. If the external review decision is favorable, the denial of benefits will be overturned. However, if the decision is unfavorable, it gives the health plan added ammunition in litigation.
If there is not enough money in issue to justify litigation, then external review is worth the gamble. On the other hand, if the amount in controversy is large, you should discuss the pros and cons with an insurance benefits lawyer prior to pursuing external review. Your medical provider may also have insight as to the likelihood of success of an external review.

Knowledgeable Benefits Lawyers With the Credentials and Grit to Fight for Your Rights

If your claim for medical benefits has been denied due to alleged lack of medical necessity, the lawyers at DeBofsky Law are here to help. We have successfully challenged denials based on medical necessity in and out of the courtroom.  Let us counsel you as to your rights and make sure you receive the services you were promised.

claim for medical benefits denied due to lack of medical necessity

“It’s a joy to have the process over and a favorable decision issued.”

“Mark – Thank you so much, to you and the team that worked on my case. It has taken me a little bit of time to believe the good news. It’s a joy to have the process over and a favorable decision issued. I am much appreciative of the work and guidance you provided. I felt reassured from our first phone call and more so each time I saw the effort and expertise you brought to my case. Thank you again!”

T. H. | Client

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