B. Josh Pettingill
Reversionary clauses have become a common term of settlement in workers’ compensation cases involving a Medicare Set Aside (MSA). It is important for workers’ compensation attorneys to understand how these clauses can impact the injured worker, as well as the settlement.
What is a reversionary clause?
A reversionary clause means that when the injured worker passes away, any funds remaining in the WCMSA account would “revert” back to the carrier. The carrier essentially receives a rebate, or a refund on any unspent medical funds. The argument by the carrier for a reversionary clause is that they should only pay for medicals if the claimant is alive. Therefore, if the claimant passes away before the funds are exhausted, there is a “windfall” of money to the claimant’s beneficiaries or family.
Most plaintiff/applicant attorneys are not apt to agree to such a clause since it is money that the injured worker does not get to keep. There are multiple variations of a reversionary clause where it could be based either on a lump sum amount on the remaining funds in the account, the number of guaranteed annuity payments remaining on any structured settlement used to fund the MSA obligation, or a combination of both.
You must be careful when agreeing to use their professional MSA administration company for the MSA account. One trick that carriers use is to offer to pay for lifetime professional administration “for the benefit” of the claimant. They do this for multiple reasons. They may have financial relationships with certain providers that incentivize them monetarily to push business towards a certain company. This also gives assurance that they will get paid back if there is a reversionary clause in place. The MSA administrator becomes a cash collector for them upon the injured worker’s passing. If professional administration is not in place, then it is exceedingly difficult to collect from a claimant’s estate even if this is a material term of the settlement.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys must be proactive to exclude or modify reversionary clauses
A reversionary clause should never be agreed to as a provision of a workers’ compensation settlement. Furthermore, if a settlement is reached, then the injured worker should be given the choice to select the company to professionally administer the WCMSA at the carrier’s expense.
There are rare occasions when a reversionary clause may be useful to reaching an agreement if there is a catastrophically injured person with a large WCMSA and reduced life expectancy. We have seen firsthand where a reversionary clause has helped bring the settling parties together because it allows the carrier to pay more dollars to get the case resolved in exchange for having some protection in the event the injured worker passed away prematurely. If the carrier insists on a reversionary clause, then you can always negotiate that only a certain percentage of any remaining funds or a certain number of annuity payments will revert to the carrier.
About Synergy’s Workers’ Compensation Settlement Experts
Synergy’s Workers’ Compensation Settlement Services team is headed up by Jason Lazarus who is a former workers’ compensation attorney and Josh Pettingill who frequently testifies as an economist on workers’ compensation matters. Both Jason and Josh are Medicare Set Aside Consultants Certified by the International Healthcare Commission, have served as MSP compliance expert witnesses and have authored numerous articles on Medicare Set Asides. Collectively, they have handled over 10,000 workers’ compensation cases and have taught over 500 hours of CLE education on settlement planning, Medicare Set Asides, public benefits protection and other complex issues impacting the value of workers’ compensation matters.
 High dollar WCMSAs are typically funded by way of a structured settlement that is only payable for as long as claimant is alive or for the claimant’s life expectancy. MSAs can typically be funded at a present value cost of 40%-60% less than the cost to fund the lump sum MSA amount.