ER Visit bill received 11 months later for deceased mother-in-law
November 13, 2014 3:58 AM   Subscribe

Last year on 12/11/13 we had to take my mother-in-law to the closest ER which happened to be a hospital that had just opened under new company/management (had been closed for almost a year until new company took over). I provided her Medicare Part A and B card and her AARP Medicare Supplement Card at the time we took her in. The intake person made copies of both cards and said nothing about the insurance coverage what so ever.

My mother-in-law was transferred to another hospital 8 hours later due to her poor condition (ended up being pancreatitis). She passed away 3 days later on 12/14/13.

This week we get two bills addressed to my mother-in-law from the ER visit on 12/11/13. One is for $3000 and the other is $250. I called the billing department and was told at the time of the ER visit the hospital was not Medicare certified and Medicare would not pay the bill. I was told the bill was actually double the amount sent to us and it had been adjusted because the insurance would not pay. I told the lady my mother-in-law passed away 3 days after this ER visit and she asked me to send her a copy of death certificate, (which I did). She said she would talk to a supervisor about what to do about this situation and call me back.

My mother-in-law's will went through the probate procedure where a ad was run in the paper and now just likes the judge's signature to be closed.

What are our rights concerning this bill? It seems to me the hospital is going to have to write this bill off due to the fact we were not informed that they were not accepting Medicare at the time of our visit.
posted by just asking to Law & Government (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When your mother-in-law checked into the hospital, who signed as being responsible for the cost?
posted by HuronBob at 4:02 AM on November 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: IANAL but I would go with "We will not be paying this bill. You are welcome to sue the estate, but the notice to creditors was advertised in June and probate is now completed, so good luck with that."

I have told much larger creditors to stand on the corner and whistle in similar circumstances.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:05 AM on November 13, 2014 [66 favorites]

It's not your bill, it's your MIL's bill. Even if your were listed on the account at the hospital as guarantor or next-of-kin, you are not responsible for her bills. Let the hospital try to go after the estate, if they want to. My guess is, they'll probably drop it. $3250 is nothing to a hospital.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:26 AM on November 13, 2014 [11 favorites]

What they told you actually doesn't matter - your ability to pay doesn't weigh into whether they treat you or not, they're required by law (EMTALA, assuming you're in the USA) to treat any patients who comes to their ER regardless of ability to pay or type of insurance accepted. They may not have known they would be unable to bill Medicare at the time, but even if they had known, it's not like you could have taken your business elsewhere when your mother in law was dying - if you said "hey, if you don't accept her insurance we don't want you to treat her", they couldn't ethically just stop doing what they were doing to try to help her.

I would agree that this bill is probably lost revenue for them, but it probably isn't nothing to them - at least, not collectively. Any hospital that loses the ability to bill Medicare is losing a huge amount of revenue and likely in huge financial trouble.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:36 AM on November 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would go silent. You have told them your MIL died, that you posted the ad and that probate is over pending signature. If they call you and you answer, tell them again that your MIL died and that her estate is closed. Then, in a nice way, hang up.
posted by 724A at 5:13 AM on November 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your MIL is deceased and (I assume) her estate closed. Unless you signed a form at the hospital making you personally responsible for her debt, the case is closed. Not your problem. Basically, the hospital is out of luck.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not all the information you're getting here is correct. You might want to check this out. Given the amount and the possibility of violating laws relating to probate and the uncertainty as to who signed as responsible for the cost (and whose credit report would be dinged if the bill goes unpaid) , I would spend the $200 necessary to have a lawyer look at this.

And, folks, please note that the OP stated that probate has not closed yet.
posted by HuronBob at 5:36 AM on November 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

Not your circus, not your monkey. I am assuming that you have an attorney handling probate. Send the bills to that person and let the estate settle it.

Unless you or your spouse personally signed for responsibility for the debt, it's for the probate court to hash out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:38 AM on November 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

When my grandfather passed away, we received many bills for his hospital stay (Georgia). My grandmother called them, and explained that he had passed, and the hospitals were able to adjust the bills to less or write them off completely. Hopefully that is what the lady in the billing department is trying to do with this bill.
posted by needlegrrl at 5:40 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

A person's debts don't necessarily pass to someone else when they die. There's a real chance that you, personally, owe nothing.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:52 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some states do have filial responsibility laws that pass-on a parent's debts to their children. So, it's remotely possible that your spouse could be held responsible (if your state has such a law.) One thing in your favor, though, is this billing is almost a year old and was not made known to you (or your MIL) until now.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:59 AM on November 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

In addition to what treehorn said about the nature of ER care, it's generally a patient's responsibility to understand their own coverage, not the provider. While some providers will run the coverage through to check, if they make a mistake, it's still not their responsibility.
posted by Pax at 5:59 AM on November 13, 2014

See what the hospital's next move is.

Call the Patient Advocate's Office for the hospital if the matter is not resolved by the Billing Office.
posted by tckma at 7:19 AM on November 13, 2014

Call Medicare and see if the hospital is telling you the truth about any of this.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:35 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mother-in-law's will went through the probate procedure where a ad was run in the paper and now just likes the judge's signature to be closed.

creditors have 9 months from the filing of probate or 12 months in some places to stake their claim. If they did not respond to the advertisement, and even if they did but did not file correctly the probate judge will disallow any claim. Do not contact the hospital, medicare etc. unless directed to by the probate court.
posted by Gungho at 8:28 AM on November 13, 2014

Personally I would just stall until the probate clock runs out, but your mileage may vary.
posted by corb at 9:23 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Tool for visualizing network activity over time   |   The absolute best pizza (and poutine) in Quebec... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.