AJ

Step Son's Medical Debt

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My 22 year old step son went to the ER for the flu.  He is covered by our health insurance. The health insurance did not pay the $600 ER bill, because he hadn't met his deductible. The hospital sent him the  bill, but he is unable to pay it. He is unemployed and enrolled in college classes. The hospital debt collector was trying to tell my spouse that we are responsible for the debt. 

At what age does a person become responsible for his/her medical debt?  I think after age 18 parents are no longer obligated to pay.  Another question...do parents have to tell the hospital when the child is 18, that the parents no longer will be responsible for future medical debt?

Thank you.

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39 minutes ago, AJ said:

At what age does a person become responsible for his/her medical debt?  I think after age 18 parents are no longer obligated to pay.  

Except in this circumstance.   If he is still considered a dependent while enrolled in school full time and you claim him on your taxes then yes you can be expected to cover his medical bills.  There is one other reason:  he is on your policy and ultimately the policy holder is also responsible for any bills not covered by the carrier.

40 minutes ago, AJ said:

The hospital debt collector was trying to tell my spouse that we are responsible for the debt. 

In this case they may be right.

40 minutes ago, AJ said:

Another question...do parents have to tell the hospital when the child is 18, that the parents no longer will be responsible for future medical debt?

No and because he is on your policy you can't.  

41 minutes ago, AJ said:

The health insurance did not pay the $600 ER bill, because he hadn't met his deductible. The hospital sent him the  bill, but he is unable to pay it.

Most hospitals will take payments as low as $10 a month.  Surely he can get a part time job temporarily to pay this off.

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46 minutes ago, AJ said:

At what age does a person become responsible for his/her medical debt?

R.C.W. 26.16.205 states in relevant part, "The expenses of the family and the education of the children, including stepchildren, are chargeable upon the property of both spouses or both domestic partners, or either of them, and they may be sued jointly or separately." However, courts that have construed this statute appear to limit the definition of "children" to "minor children." Your stepson is no longer a minor. And, even though you attempted to pay with your insurance, the fact that there was no coverage available makes the issue of insurance irrelevant to your question. That said, your stepson is an adult. There was no insurance available to cover his trip to the emergency room. It would appear he is responsible for the bill.

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Guest usctrojanalum

This is one of the most fascinating areas of law where I am from.  In New York, all parents are responsible for a child's medical expenses until the age of 21, unless they are emancipated prior to that date.  However, an adult child can be on a parent's insurance policy until the day before their 30th birthday.

I have seen instances where a policyholder parent has received an insurance check to pay a medical services provider who rendered medical treatment to a child over of the age of 21.  The parent then keeps the check meant for the medical provider for their own personal use lol.  

The doctor is unable to pursue the policyholder parent due to lack of privity, and has to pursue the patient who has basically been shafted by their parent.  It creates an odd situation.

Whether or not you will be responsible for the bill would depend on what age does a child no longer become a minor.  It is not always automatically 18, as in New York it is 21. This would probably be defined in a family law statute, or if not specifically defined in the statute, would be defined by case law and decisional authority. 

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I contacted a lawyer.  Here is what she said:

 

"Why would you want to take legal advice from a hospital clerk, especially one that is trying to separate you from your money?

In WA, a person is an adult when the person turns 18. An adult is legally responsible for his own finances unless someone else contractually obligates himself or herself to be legally responsible for the adult's debts.

That the law allows you to cover your adult son under your insurance policy does not make you legally liable for your son's medical expenses.

You can tell the hospital to stop contacting you for a debt you do not owe."

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2 minutes ago, AJ said:

An adult is legally responsible for his own finances unless someone else contractually obligates himself or herself to be legally responsible for the adult's debts.

READ your policy carefully.  Many have language in there that does contractually obligate you to cover the unpaid portions of the care of those dependents you list on your policy.  

5 minutes ago, AJ said:

That the law allows you to cover your adult son under your insurance policy does not make you legally liable for your son's medical expenses.

Hope she read your policy before she said that.

5 minutes ago, AJ said:

You can tell the hospital to stop contacting you for a debt you do not owe.

Yes, you certainly can.  Stop to consider this:  this is over $600.  Do you REALLY want to trash your son's credit over that small amount?  Can you not pay the debt for him and have you pay him back?  Whether he owes it or you do this amount is NOT worth 7 years of a collection over.  Oh, and next time have him go to a urgent care clinic or "doc in a box" which would have cost about $90 vs. the enormous costs for the emergency room.

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Who is responsible for medical bills for 17 year old (just turned 18) that apparently took herself to hospital - with the insurance card for some type of pregnancy related treatment (I believe ultrasound - definitely non-emergency visit) 4 months prior to 18th birthday?  Parents separated when child was months old, divorce finalized a couple years later.  Step-mom had better insurance and provided the husband's obligatory insurance coverage.  Note - biological mom (physical custodial parent) signed child out of school at age of 16, unknown to father.   Hospital now billing step-mom - is she legally responsible?

 

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14 minutes ago, pamm221 said:

Note - biological mom (physical custodial parent) signed child out of school at age of 16, unknown to father. 

Not relevant to the billing issue.

14 minutes ago, pamm221 said:

Hospital now billing step-mom - is she legally responsible?

Under the insurance policy contract the holder of the policy (step-mom) is considered responsible for any portion not covered by the policy.  The policy specifically states that as part of that contract the primary policy holder is ultimately responsible as the policy holder for all portions not covered by the policy.

LEGALLY the child was still a minor at the time of the care so therefore the biological parents would still be responsible for that out of pocket portion for the kid from a lawsuit perspective.

Bottom line if you don't want this bill to affect step-mom's credit then both mother and father to this kid need to step up and pay it.  I would also pay it before the hospital gets wise that the insurance shouldn't have covered the ultrasound.  Most policies now exclude maternity care for dependent minor children.

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On 6/30/2016 at 10:40 AM, Clydesmom said:

Not relevant to the billing issue.

Under the insurance policy contract the holder of the policy (step-mom) is considered responsible for any portion not covered by the policy.  The policy specifically states that as part of that contract the primary policy holder is ultimately responsible as the policy holder for all portions not covered by the policy.

LEGALLY the child was still a minor at the time of the care so therefore the biological parents would still be responsible for that out of pocket portion for the kid from a lawsuit perspective.

It would actually depend on the state as to if the 17 year old is considered legally able to enter a contract.  Many states have that legal consent set as 17.

I agree with @Clydesmom that the insurance contract likely states that the contract holder (step-mom) is responsible for paying the portion not covered by insurance, however, I would also bet that the hospital has their own contract signed by the 17 year old at time of service which says that she agrees to be responsible for any payments not covered by insurance.  If both of those are true, then the only legal way to sort it out would be for step mom to sue the 17 year old for the medical bill.

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1 hour ago, fisthardcheese said:

 

On 6/30/2016 at 7:40 AM, Clydesmom said:

Not relevant to the billing issue.

Under the insurance policy contract the holder of the policy (step-mom) is considered responsible for any portion not covered by the policy.  The policy specifically states that as part of that contract the primary policy holder is ultimately responsible as the policy holder for all portions not covered by the policy.

LEGALLY the child was still a minor at the time of the care so therefore the biological parents would still be responsible for that out of pocket portion for the kid from a lawsuit perspective.

It would actually depend on the state as to if the 17 year old is considered legally able to enter a contract.  Many states have that legal consent set as 17.

 

When it comes to medical care unless the child was already declared an emancipated minor by the courts NO hospital is going to consider them legally an adult able to enter into the financial contract for medical care.  In 30 years I have yet to see one provider do it.  This kid could consent to the treatment (which actually I am surprised they did without permission from a parent or guardian) but they are not going to bill the kid for it.

The biological parents and secondarily step-mom are on the hook for this.

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Guest usctrojanalum

When looking for who is responsible for someone who is 17-21 years old, check contract law first then must check family law second.  In NY an 18 year old can enter into a contract, but an an 18 year old is not responsible for their medical bills if they are not emancipated. 

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Actually, if the child was considered a dependent on her parents plan,  she may have been legally entitled to prenatal health care without any cost sharing, according to the US Dept of Health and Human Services:

http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2015/05/12/implementing-health-reform-clarifying-requirements-for-coverage-of-contraceptives-and-other-preventive-services/

Third, the FAQ clarifies that health plans and insurers must cover without cost sharing preventive services for covered dependents of enrollees as determined to be age and developmentally appropriate by the dependent’s attending provider. This includes services related to pregnancy, such as preconception and prenatal care.

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