THADC

Being Pursued for Adult Son's Medical Bill

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Hello,

I am being pursued (one letter, one voice mail) by a collection agency in CA called Cedar Financial. The bill is for about $1700 from medical services provider that my adult son must have used. My son and I have been estranged for almost two years (he turned 18 this past April). He lives with his mother in CA while I live in VA outside Wash, DC. Neither he nor his mother (with whom I have been divorced for 4 years) communicate with me. I had no participation in the medical transaction, and know nothing of the services provided. The date of service if from after his 18th birthday. When a minor, his mother had primary custody of him in CA, although we had joint legal custody even though we lived 3000 miles apart.

Obviously the collection agency is having difficulty extracting the money from my ex wife, so they somehow found me in VA and sent me that letter. I called them and told them the circumstances, that is, the estrangement between me and son and ex. I explained to the agency that whatever the circumstances, his mother almost certainly arranged for medical services on behalf of my son. I told the credit agency that I do not intend to pay this bill and don't believe I am obligated to.

The credit agency did not seem to have my ex's contact information. I provided them a PO Box in CA. I communicated to them that I do not know her physical address (ex refuses to tell me where she and son live).

I do provide spousal support for ex, but not son any longer now that he is an adult. I send checks directly to her bank.

Anyway, the agency called me back today. They left a message saying it is important that I return their call. I don't want to return their call as I feel I have no obligation to them.

However, I am not sure what I should do. Do I need to get back to them? I provided the only information to them that I had (the PO box). What is my responsibility and what are my rights here? Can they say I am obligated to pay and therefore make me pay or else destroy my credit?

I would be grateful for any insights. Sorry for the long post, and I look forward to hearing back from people. Thank you!

 

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3 hours ago, THADC said:

The bill is for about $1700 from medical services provider that my adult son must have used. My son and I have been estranged for almost two years (he turned 18 this past April).

WHEN did he receive the care?  Before or after turning 18?

Also, do you provide his health insurance?  

3 hours ago, THADC said:

They left a message saying it is important that I return their call. I don't want to return their call as I feel I have no obligation to them.

You actually might have an obligation under two legal reasons.  The first is if your son was covered on your insurance policy through work or you took out health insurance for him then as the policy holder you are legally responsible for all charges not covered by the policy as the holder.  The second would be the doctrine of necessities.  It is a legal presumption that a parent will provide medical care for their minor child until they turn 18.

If you did not insure him and he turned 18 BEFORE the care was received then send a cease and desist letter to the collection agency stating you are not responsible and refuse to pay.  If they don't cease collection activities then you can sue them.

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If your son wasn't on your policy, you might send a letter to the Better Business Bureau where the CA is located.  It costs nothing, and sometime complaints to the BBB about a CA do get results.  I would not call the BBB.  Find their address and then type out a clear and concise letter.  I would not speak with the CA on the phone either.

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According to the OP, the date of service is after the son's 18th birthday so that is off of the table. The only thing left is the insurance thing and who is responsible for that under the divorce decree.

If the OP is not responsible in either case and can prove it in court, send a letter to the CA CMRRR (Green Card) saying that you refuse to pay the debt. At that point, they either have to stop collection or sue the OP. If the debt shows up on the OP's credit report, they can dispute it and I am sure eventually get it removed if the OP has the proof that they are not responsible in the first place.

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Thanks for responses. I am grateful for that. Here is some clarifying information:

1) My son IS STILL covered by my health insurance policy. However, there is not record with my insurance company (Anthem) that they were engaged for a claim. Is that relevant?

2) I am actually uncertain of the date of service. I will get clarification somehow, but I am reluctant to contact the CA based on what debtzapper said above.

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If you are required to pay health care costs in the divorce decree, that might be a problem for you. Unfortunately you are probably outside of the 30 day period to DV the debt, otherwise you could have done that and found out what is going on. If there is a way to find your ex-wife/son, you might have to call them to find out what is going on (and why the provider was not given the correct insurance information).

Worst case scenario, you can call the CA and let them know that you need more information before you decide your responsibility for the debt and they can either give it to you and you can do research, or they can refuse, you will send a letter to the CA refusing to pay, and they can tell the provider to go to Virginia to sue you where you can then demand the information needed to determine if you are really responsible. If they act reasonable, you can act reasonable. If they try to bully you (for example, you feel your self getting angry or upset), then tell the collector you are ending the call and hang up and refuse to take calls from them.

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7 hours ago, THADC said:

1) My son IS STILL covered by my health insurance policy. However, there is not record with my insurance company (Anthem) that they were engaged for a claim. Is that relevant?

Regardless of whether or not your son is 18 before or after the care if he is listed on your policy then as the policy holder you can be legally held responsible for the bill.  I would immediately find out who the provider is and get a copy of the invoice to submit a claim yourself to the carrier and get the care covered.  One problem is that many carriers have set very small time frames to get a bill submitted but as the non-custodial parent you may be able to appeal a denial based on time expired for not being aware of the care until  it went to collections.

7 hours ago, THADC said:

I am reluctant to contact the CA based on what debtzapper said above.

In some cases it is a bad idea to contact a CA.  In yours it is not.  You need to resolve this and not speaking to anyone isn't going to help the situation.  The debt is new enough they could sue to collect and you have an opportunity to get it filed and covered by insurance if you don't mess around refusing to speak to the CA.  They may have more relevant information that you need to resolve this.

4 hours ago, WhoCares1000 said:

If there is a way to find your ex-wife/son, you might have to call them to find out what is going on (and why the provider was not given the correct insurance information).

The provider may have had the correct information.  There are a small number of providers that do not file the claims directly instead expecting the patient, family or insured to do so.  Providers are not required to file a claim but many do because it expedites payment directly to them.  If the care was through an emergency room or urgent care clinic it is not uncommon for them to not have the insurance information at the time of care.  The major question is why the ex-wife ignored the bills and didn't file a claim herself when they started arriving other than perhaps to stick it to the OP.

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8 hours ago, WhoCares1000 said:

According to the OP, the date of service is after the son's 18th birthday so that is off of the table.
 

This is not always the case, many parents are surprised to learn that in New York a parent is responsible for a child's medical bills up to and including the age of 21 - unless the parent can demonstrate that the child was completely emancipated. 

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1 hour ago, usctrojanalum said:

This is not always the case, many parents are surprised to learn that in New York a parent is responsible for a child's medical bills up to and including the age of 21 - unless the parent can demonstrate that the child was completely emancipated. 

The divorce decree may also address it.  Not uncommon for the decree to state the parent providing the insurance must do so until the child graduates college, turns a specific age, drops out of school, or becomes emancipated.  

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2 hours ago, usctrojanalum said:

This is not always the case, many parents are surprised to learn that in New York a parent is responsible for a child's medical bills up to and including the age of 21 - unless the parent can demonstrate that the child was completely emancipated. 

New York is the only state with this law (I know this growing up in New York). Everywhere else in the USA, the age of majority is 18. The OP is in Virginia and the son (and care) was in California. This means that the magic number is 18, not 21 as far as the law is concerned. The divorce decree may say something else and if that has a later age, the decree will overrule the law.

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Yeah, it's a weird statutory scheme.  The age of majority in New York is still 18 (or quite literally, the day before one's 18th birthday).  However, for whatever reason, the legislature decided to make a carve out and extend the age for which parents are responsible for their minor children up to the age of 21 for medical bills.  However, as you well know, an 18 year old in New York is still considered an adult for tobacco purchases, voting rights, entering into binding contracts, etc. 

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In California if he is in any school, then he has to cover it until 25. If he is an adult and not in school or hasn't continued in school for the first semester of the new school year then that breaks the chain and he is responsible.

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11 hours ago, usctrojanalum said:

Yeah, it's a weird statutory scheme.  The age of majority in New York is still 18 (or quite literally, the day before one's 18th birthday).  However, for whatever reason, the legislature decided to make a carve out and extend the age for which parents are responsible for their minor children up to the age of 21 for medical bills.  However, as you well know, an 18 year old in New York is still considered an adult for tobacco purchases, voting rights, entering into binding contracts, etc. 

For the voting rights and contracts, New York cannot limit the rights provided by federal law/US Constitution. That is why they have to allow it at 18. As for tobacco, you can bet the state legislators get tons of money to make sure that the smoking age is not raised. Hell, the law only says that those under 18 cannot purchase tobacco. There is nothing about possession.

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7 hours ago, Seadragon said:

In California if he is in any school, then he has to cover it until 25. If he is an adult and not in school or hasn't continued in school for the first semester of the new school year then that breaks the chain and he is responsible.

Regardless, all of this cannot override a divorce decree which we are not privy to unless the OP says what the decree contains.

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16 hours ago, WhoCares1000 said:

Regardless, all of this cannot override a divorce decree which we are not privy to unless the OP says what the decree contains.

True dat.

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Per the Affordable Care Act.

Young Adult Coverage. Under current law, if your plan covers children, you can now add or keep your children on your health insurance policy until they turn 26 years old.

re Act, children can remain on their parents policy up to age 26

 

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