Author Topic: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.  (Read 1267 times)

SpareChange

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Well, life can turn on a dime. About a week ago my dad suffered a massive heart attack. He was taken by helicopter from a small ER to a hospital about 60 miles away. Underwent surgery, but ended up passing away just over a day later. He did not have Medicare part B, just A. My mom is freaking out a bit about what she may or may not be on the hook for. This is a community property state, if that matters. She called the air ambulance company and the initial quote she's getting for just the chopper ride is $38k. Unfortunately, with dad gone her income will be substantially hit as well. We're googling and making phone calls, but does anyone have experience or info for dealing with this stuff? Thanks.

Sibley

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Re: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2019, 12:36:44 PM »
My first thought is don't pay anything, agree to pay anything, or sign anything until you know what you have to pay.

LifeHappens

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Re: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2019, 12:42:09 PM »
My first thought is don't pay anything, agree to pay anything, or sign anything until you know what you have to pay.
+1,000,000 this.

A friend just settled an air ambulance bill. Original bill was ~$35,000, insurance covered $2,000. They settled for $9,300.

The process sucks, and your mom will have many more bills to negotiate, but she should be able to pay a fraction of the original bill amounts.

electriceagle

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Re: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2019, 12:57:57 PM »
Mom should inventory her assets.

Retirement accounts are generally exempt from creditors. In many states, the home that you live in is exempt as well. Many older people have only these assets and can therefore take a very strong position when negotiating these bills down.

Mom should definitely think twice before withdrawing from retirement accounts to pay bills such as this. Once you take the money out, it is no longer exempt.

kendallf

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Re: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2019, 01:17:04 PM »
Mom should inventory her assets.

Retirement accounts are generally exempt from creditors. In many states, the home that you live in is exempt as well. Many older people have only these assets and can therefore take a very strong position when negotiating these bills down.

Mom should definitely think twice before withdrawing from retirement accounts to pay bills such as this. Once you take the money out, it is no longer exempt.

^this.

In the case of bills for a deceased spouse, they aren't the responsiblity of the surviving spouse anyway, they pass to the estate.  This may seem like semantics but for many seniors who have no assets other than a house and perhaps retirement accounts, there's no probated estate, the house and retirement accounts are protected, and there's nothing for creditors to take. 

My step father passed away about 4 years ago after a fall and a protracted hospital stay, a hip replacement, and then a final stay in a nursing/rehab facility.  He had only Medicare A.  Their only asset is the house they live in; my mother now receives the Social Security spousal benefit roughly equal to my step-father's benefit. 

Bills were over $500k.  As you can imagine, my mother could not realistically pay any of it.  I feel for the medical providers; this sort of expensive end of life care is *THE* reason the US medical system is so expensive.   Having said that, we needed to keep my mother from trying to pay bills she couldn't pay, getting constantly harassed by bill collectors, etc.

I took all of the bills and for about a year just sent medical creditors a copy of the death certificate and a letter stating that there was no estate, sorry.  Some of the creditors will call and try to get the surviving spouse to sign a payment agreement (which can then be collected upon); I stopped all of those.  Eventually the letters quit. 

SpareChange

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Re: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2019, 01:32:29 PM »
THank you for the very helpful replies. The only assets my mom has are her home on 20 acres (with maybe 10k in equity as the mortgage is about 17 months old), a separate 28 acre lot worth about 60-70k i think, and about 5k in cash. I've relayed to her the ideas in the replies above. Again, thank you.

AMandM

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Re: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2019, 01:59:26 PM »
No advice, just wanted to offer my condolences to you and your mother. I know what it's like to lose a parent suddenly.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2019, 04:22:42 PM »
Thatís horrible and I know must rough, my thoughts to your family. I actually learned from here that in most cases youíre not responsible for a deceased personís debt. I wish I would have known that when my grandpa died because I helped my grandma pay his bills cause we thought she had to. She didnít. I kick myself for that. They would have to find a way to make your mom liable, itís not easy. Fight everything.

SpareChange

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Re: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2019, 07:46:27 AM »
Thank you.

SavinMaven

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Re: Father passed away, leaving potentially huge medical bills.
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2019, 07:16:10 AM »
I'm so sorry for the loss of your father.

Medicare Part A pays hospital bills.
Medicare Part B pays for clinic visits.

Medicare sometimes permits "balance billing". What this means is that Medicare often pays some prenegotiated portion of the bill, and the difference between what they pay and what the bill is can sometimes be passed on to the patient. It's the equivalent of going to Target, if you have Target insurance: you could buy a $500 tv, and Target insurance pays $200, you would have to pay $300 for your $500 tv.

There are times Medicare does not allow hospitals to balance bill. Patients who are also signed up for Medicaid can't be balance billed. There are other circumstances as well. Each hospital will have a financial counselor, but be aware they work for that facility and their job is to recoup it money. It may be worth a small investment in an elder law attorney (not to deal with the bills, but to look into how your parents held assets. Your mom as the surviving spouse is generally allowed to consider certain assets, like a house and one car, as well as 50% of investables, as HER share of the joint estate - which means that money doesn't have to be used to paying off any bill incurred on behalf of your dad).