Torts: Damages: Medical Expenses
The federal government operates one of the largest health care systems in the world when it provides medical treatment and benefits to its members of the armed forces. For this reason, the Medical Care Recovery Act (MCRA) was enacted in order to allow the government to recover its expenses from a third party when the third party is responsible for injuries that have been sustained by an active duty service member, a retired service member, or a dependent of an active duty or a retired service member.
The MCRA creates an independent cause of action on behalf of the federal government. The government’s right to recover expenses does not depend upon a third party. In other words, the government is entitled to compensation from the third party, even if the third party would have a defense to a service member’s action.
Whether the federal government is entitled to compensation under the MCRA depends upon the law of the state where the injury occurred. If a service member would be entitled to compensation under the law where his or her injury occurred, the federal government is entitled to be reimbursed for its expenses in treating the service member.
The federal government may file claims under the MCRA against private persons, corporations, associations, and state or local governmental entities. It may also file claims against other federal employees. The government cannot file a claim under the MCRA against a service member because the government has a duty to provide free medical care to the service member. However, if the service member is insured by a private insurer, the government may file a subrogation claim against the private insurer. Also, if the responsible party is insured, the government may file a claim against the responsible party’s insurance company.
In accordance with the MCRA, the federal government is entitled to recover the reasonable cost of medical services that are provided to a service member in a government or a military hospital. The government may also recover the reasonable cost of medical services that are provided to a service member by a private hospital or by private medical providers when the government has reimbursed the private hospital or the private medical providers under a government or military insurance program.
When the federal government has provided treatment to a service member in a government or a military facility, the government is entitled to a per diem charge for the service member’s inpatient care and to a per visit charge for the service member’s outpatient treatment. When the service member has received treatment in a private facility, the government is entitled to be reimbursed for the amount that it paid the private facility.
A service member has a duty to report any incident that may involve a claim under the MCRA. However, most claims under the MCRA are generally reported when the military facility that treats the service member discovers that a third party may be responsible for the service member’s injuries.
The statute of limitations under the MCRA is three years from the date that an injury occurred.
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