NEW ORLEANS Following more than a year of delays, BP has paid the first 100 of about 10,000 medical claims filed by Gulf Coast residents and cleanup workers affected by the 2010 oil spill.
Payments to cover the costs of treatment for skin and respiratory ailments and other human-health impacts should begin to flow in earnest over the next two to three months, said Matt Garretson, the administrator appointed by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to process and pay those claims.
There's about 800 cases already ready for payment and of those, approximately 100 have cleared and we're working every day to clear the balance, said Garretson, head of Cincinnati-based Garretson Resolution Group.
BP has waged an aggressive battle in the courts and media against the way a different claims administrator has been paying individuals and businesses under a separate economic damage settlement.
No such fight has emerged over medical claims, but they were still slow out of the starting gate. The settlement was approved in court in January 2013, but appeals by claimants, since dropped, kept the payments from starting until February 2014.
The payments range from about $900 with a simple signed declaration and proof that the claimant worked or lived on oiled coastline, to more than $60,000 for well-documented chronic injuries that required hospitalization.
Garretson says his team of 300 claims adjusters and processors has denied more than 2,600 claims so far and has had to ask for more documentation from around 4,000 claimants. The forms are numerous and complex, and final payments can take a while as the Garretson Group checks on Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance reimbursements.
But, he said, the rules of the settlement are specific and clear enough to avoid additional appeals or the kind of court challenges that have marked the economic settlement process. And Garretson s team is not getting into questions of civil liability, such as claims by some cleanup workers that they were not always provided with proper protective clothing and respiratory devices.
If they check all the boxes, the amount s already agreed to, Garretson said. So there's not that type of disagreement available to the parties because the settlement is much more prescribed, as I like to say.
As a part of the settlement, BP also agreed to have the Garretson Group run a program of continued medical consultations and to give grants to health care providers under the Gulf Region Medical Outreach Program. So far, about 100 claimants have scheduled consultations and $80 million in grants have been disbursed.
The Garretson Group has a Class Member Services Center in New Orleans at 935 Gravier St. Claimants can call to schedule an in-person appointment at 877.545.5111 or by email at email@example.com. Eligibility rules, claim forms and other information is available on their website, www.deepwaterhorizonmedicalsettlement.com