Employer Fails to Provide Promised Health Insurance, Faces Suit

This election year, the issue of health insurance is poised to play a part in the campaign promises and criticisms of presidential hopefuls. And, as the country continues to tumble toward a recession, Americans have enough debt without worrying about paying for doctor's visits and unexpected injuries.

But for some, problems of finance and medical insurance have reportedly already come to a head.

According to an NBC News affiliate, workers for Merit Transportation, a trucking company based in Omaha, Nebraska, got an unpleasant surprise when they visited healthcare professionals in the past few months. It seems their employer had stopped paying their insurance premiums, despite taking money from their salaries each month to cover such costs.

One truck driver reportedly experienced serious vision problems and found they could be corrected with eye surgery. Assuming the $100 monthly deduction from his paycheck was going towards his medical insurance (as Merit allegedly led him to believe it was), he went ahead with the procedure.

Afterwards, his vision was restored and he was able to drive again. But he evidently received quite a shock when he began receiving collection letters for medical bills that totaled $50,000.

Now, sources indicate that 11 current and former Merit employees are suing the transportation company, which has been in operation since 1999. They're reportedly claiming that Merit and two of its top-level employees "intentionally and illegally used company premiums for unlawful" purposes.

Combined, the workers have unpaid medical expenses in the amount of $300,000 - a formidable sum for anyone, especially those who assumed they were covered.

But this personal injury lawsuit may not face a smooth road.

Merit's president, Gary Wills, has reportedly claimed that the company is "heavily self-insured," but has run out of money to cover premiums. That, apparently, is one of the factors that contributed to the decision to file for bankruptcy.

To make matters more complicated, bankruptcy filings are generally accompanied by an "automatic stay," which goes into effect as soon as the bankruptcy case is filed and protects the filer (in this case, Merit) from all collection actions - including lawsuits.

Reports indicate that Wills has encouraged his employees to "be patient" during the company's bankruptcy, but for those receiving collection notices and watching interest rates pile up on their medical bills, patience may not be a practical option.

Insurance fraud is a serious crime, and can result in financially devastating costs. If you've been injured or victimized by your employer's failure to follow through with medical insurance promises, you can contact an injury lawyer today.

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