When to Get Car Insurance With Medical Benefits

If you get hurt in a car accident, who pays the bills? It depends on your coverage.
Alice Holbrook
By Alice Holbrook 

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At first glance, car insurance and health insurance are two different products entirely. Your car insurance pays for damage to your vehicle (or other people’s vehicles), and your health insurance pays for doctor visits and hospitalization. But what if you’re injured in a car accident? When you get car insurance quotes, you can choose types of coverage that can help with medical bills from a car accident.

If you get car insurance with medical benefits, you can supplement the health insurance you already have, but you could also duplicate it. Before you buy an auto insurance policy, it’s important to know what coverage you already have and what you need.

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Auto insurance for medical bills

Liability, comprehensive and collision insurance won’t cover your medical expenses from a car accident, but the following coverages will:

Medical payments. This coverage — also called MedPay — is available in most states and is required for drivers in Maine and for those in New Hampshire who purchase insurance. Policies cover injuries to you and your passengers in an accident, regardless of who is at fault in the accident. They also cover injuries you suffer while riding in someone else’s car, or if you’re hit by a car as a pedestrian or cyclist. In some states, MedPay can cover your health insurance deductible and help with co-pays, as well as dental and chiropractic services. But keep in mind that MedPay coverage tends to have low limits — often $10,000 or less.

Personal injury protection. Also known as PIP, this coverage is required in about a dozen states and is offered in about ten others. Like MedPay, PIP covers you and your passengers in an accident, even if you caused it, and it follows you when you’re in another person’s car, bicycling or on foot. Although it tends to cost more than MedPay, it typically has higher coverage limits and often includes things your health insurance might not, like lost wages, services you may need, such as child care, and funeral costs.

Uninsured/underinsured motorists bodily injury. Generally, if you’re hit or injured by another driver, your car-repair and medical bills are that person's responsibility. But if the other driver doesn’t have car insurance, or has only the minimum required liability coverage, you end up paying your own bills — unless you get car insurance with uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage (UM/UIM). You may be able to elect whether to have UM/UIM, but the uninsured motorists portion — and sometimes the underinsured portion, too — is required in 20 states. It pays medical expenses for you and your passengers. In some states, you can also sign up for UM/UIM property damage coverage, which fixes your car if you’re hit by a driver with no insurance — or with too little.

The list is here.
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Weighing whether it's right for you

Getting car insurance with medical coverage can be a good buy, depending on your health plan.

If your state requires MedPay, PIP or UM/UIM — or some combination of the three — don’t assume the minimum required level is sufficient. In states like New York, legal minimums of uninsured motorists coverage match liability minimums, which many experts agree isn’t enough to cover you in a serious accident.

It could also be smart to buy PIP or MedPay if you have a high-deductible health plan, or one with many out-of-pocket costs. Depending on your state, PIP or MedPay can step in before your health coverage begins, or after you reach its limits. They can also offer services your health insurance wouldn’t, and may pay faster than your health insurance company.

Getting car insurance that includes MedPay, PIP or uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage will increase your premium, but if you’re injured in an accident, the benefits can really pay off.

NerdWallet’s auto insurance estimator tool can help you compare prices for a variety of coverage types.

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