My wife and I have been in the USA for approx. 4.5 years. We...

7 answers | Last updated: Oct 26, 2016
Ajamesgardner asked...

My wife and I have been in the USA for approx. 4.5 years. We are here on an Non-immigrant E2-Treaty Investor visa. Last year my 83 year old mother-in law visited the US from Brazil for a vacation. While here she became ill and was taken to an emergency ward. She had a number of tests and was released the following day. A week later she returned to Brazil. My wife collected her from the hospital and had to sign a paper listing our home as her mother's residence. Later, we started to receive medical bills addressed to my mother-in-law. My wife and I have no medical insurance. Are we or other members of my wife's family (she has two sisters - one is a green card holder, the other is a US citizen) liable for my mother-in-laws medical expenses?


Expert Answers

In general, no adult child is responsible for the debts of a parent except under one of several circumstances:

  1. If you agree to be responsible. In your case, this could have occurred if either you or your wife signed a paper at the hospital agreeing to be financially responsible for your mother-in-law's hospital bills. However, signing something that just gave your address as your mother-in-law's residence is not, by itself, an agreement to be responsible for her bills. But read that document carefully to see if there is any other language in it that seems to say that your wife was agreeing to pay the bills for her mother.

  2. Your assets are mingled. If an adult child and a parent have a joint bank account or other joint assets, a creditor (like the hospital) could seek to have a debt repaid from those jointly held funds. This doesn't seem to be the case with you and your mother-in-law.

  3. Legal responsibility as a condition of entry to the U.S. When a non-citizen enters the U.S., the federal government sometimes requires that a family member or other sponsor agree to be financially responsible for the person entering the country. This is more often the case when someone is applying for a visa to live in the U.S. rather than just for a tourist visa, which it sounds like your mother-in-law had. Still, you might check with your wife and her sisters to see if any of them signed such an agreement in order for your mother-in-law to visit the U.S. Even if one of them did sign such a pledge, however, it usually applies only to government assistance -- welfare, Medicaid, SSI and the like -- but not to private debts.

Unless one of the above circumstances applies to your family, you should not be held responsible for your mother-in-law's debts. If the hospital or a collection agency contacts you about your mother-in-law's bills, inform them that she does not live with you, provide them with her address in Brazil, and politely ask them to deal with her directly.


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Feel this is very hard on you all, but whenever we visit our family in the US were are advised to get very high coverage on travel insurance, or else we would be hit with very high medical bill if we needed any sort of medical care. We have done this and been covered by the insurance company when the need arose.


Txhou1 answered...

Although I am very sympathetic with a traveler becoming ill on a trip, I can't imagine people not paying for the care they receive. When this son took his mother to the emergency room, did he and his wife think that the emergency room services, including nurses, doctors and tests were free for his mother? And if his mother does not have the means to pay for her medical care, then the children should cough up the money or make arrangements to pay the hospital over time. American citizens should not have to bear the burden of these kinds of costs.


A fellow caregiver answered...

See a free consultation lawyer, have list of questions ready and research before going, Ask for financial assistance from the hospital. They may try to sue you, seen hopsitals doing that. But they may wrote it off or dramatically lower the bill too. I can't imagine people not paying for the care they receive either but it happens all the time. How does your response answer his question anyway? It makes me siock that people get al this free stuff I'd be better off quitting my 50-60 hour a week job and get me an o-phone.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Non of the travel insurance covers everything. No matter how expensive or comprehensive is the premium. There are so many conditions, age restriction in those coverage that you need to be well aware of the health history of the family member and 100% luck that the doc does not put it as a preexisting condition. Normally in emergency the diagnostic services run for hours and costs a fortune since they don't have any health history for the visitor.


Citizenpaysforothers answered...

Why did you bring your parent to America if you don't have an insurance? This is not fair from your part. We are the one who work very hard for every dollar we receive and just pay on people who did not even contribute to our community. Please think twice next time.


Rashin4 answered...

Is your wife a physical therapist... If yes maybe I talked to her once abt this.. Did this happen in 2009? i am in a similar situation.. Please connect