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Is a spouse responsible for medical bills?

6 answers | Last updated: Apr 13, 2015
An anonymous caregiver asked...

Caring.com User - Barbara Kate Repa
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Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in...
47% helpful

Your instincts and advice to your mother to proceed slowly and cautiously in paying your father’s final medical bills were sound.
A recent study revealed the scary statistic that See also:
How can we avoid selling house to pay for care?

See all 44 questions about Heart Attacks
about 90% of hospital bills contain errors, mostly in the hospital's favor. But may people pay the bills without question or documentation, especially since most medical providers are quite aggressive about coming after those they target to pay.

But even they can’t wring money where there’s none to be had. And the law protects Social Security benefits from being taken to cover this medical debt.

These days, it is not uncommon for people to need time and help in paying medical bills. Some hospitals have their own programs in place that provide this help, or can put you in contact with outside programs that can help pay the bills. These programs may significantly lower the total amount of a hospital bill. Also, some hospitals offer payment plans, which can stretch out payment of hospital bills over time at interest rates well below market. To find out more about these possibilities, contact the hospital’s patient representative or ombudsman.


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46% helpful
Lady333333 answered...

I wrote all the doctors and the hospital. I explained that my Mom had no money and to please forgive the bills. To my surprise they all did. Mom never paid a dime for my step fathers bills.....It doesn't hurt to try....I was shocked at the response.


67% helpful
Jade1961 answered...

More often than not Hospitals will forgive the debts of a person who is deceased. I have helped many patients go through the grieving process inclusive of helping them to write the appropriate letters, which are not always needed as a phone call to the hospitals Social worker will usually do the trick. As I said, in MOST cases the debt is forgiven. Hospitals, predominantly the Doctors on the board of the hospitals took a Hippocratic Oath in that oath they promise to care for the sick regardless of ability to pay. Therefore, hospitals tend to be forgiving in cases of deceased debtors they realize that the grief alone that is being faced by the spouse/family is enough to handle and in today's medicine hospitals are well funded in most area's of the USA. So give a call the worst they will say is no. We have all heard that word in our lives & it hasn't killed anyone. More likely than not though they will forgive the debt. I hope this gives you some comfort/help. God be with you & yours.


10% helpful
ljd answered...


My husband had a heart attack first of February, was in the hospital for a month, we have no insurance and we have no money, but the bills are pilling up, could you please tell me what you said in the letters to the doctors so I may do the same, I'm so lost as to what to do. Thank you in advance, Ljd


Chantixman answered...

In June 2009 I spent 14 days in ICU and a Month in the Hospital. Since I am on Title II SSDI Medicare Parts A & B, my Bill was $164,988.45. After Informing them I get $2k from SSDI and My Rent is $1600 a month I could not Pay them. They Forgave all of the Debt except for $800 (Materials from Outside Vendors.) I have found Most Hospitals will forgive the debt of the Deceased. St Joseph's In Memphis took care of my Mom for 116 Days before she passed away.. Finest medical Treatment Money could buy.. They Forgave over $450,000.00.


soccerbaby18 answered...

I have a similar situation my daddy went into the hospital august 29th and was there until he passed away September 16th and mom had already a few weeks before daddy went into the hospital been getting phone calls from a law firm (collections for medical bills) because daddy was unemployed so they said she had to pay it they even went as far as to take daddy's name off the account and add hers when it wasn't her bill anyways after daddy passed away instead of getting bills from the hospital and doctors they sent them straight to the collection company didn't even give mom a chance to ask for help nothing and the collection company doesn't work well with you. a friend of mine has a payment she called them told them she couldn't pay them right now it was pay rent and get food for her kids or pay them so they took her to court. So is my mom responsible for my daddy's bills we live in Oklahoma if that helps. Or should we seek legal help?