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Paying Medical Bill

Paying Medical Bill
Mark Cappel
UpdatedDec 1, 2022
Key Takeaways:
  • Paying part of another's medical bill probably will not obligate you to pay all of it.
  • Beware guarantor contracts when you check someone into a hospital.
  • Medical debt collectors may suggest you have an obligation to pay someone's medical debt.
Will my paying part of my sister's medical bills obligate me to pay all of them?

My youngest sister was visiting me in LA (she lives in IL) and had an emergency appendectomy while uninsured. She now has a large pile of medical bills that she is gamely trying to pay off and I would like to help her. If I make regular payments on her bills in my name, could I be held responsible for any or all of the balance if she's unable to pay? She's getting billed on multiple accounts if that makes any difference - my thought is maybe I could take resp. for at least one at a time.

The short answer to your question about paying your medical bills is, "Probably not."

The complete answer is slightly more complicated. Let us look at two situations where a person can assume liability for another’s debts.

Quick tip

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Two Hypotheticals: Creating Liability for Medical Debt

First, let us say Person A is ill, and Person B brings A to the emergency room. While A is in ER triage, a hospital employee gives B a guarantor contract, which B signs. A guarantor contract says, in effect, "I will pay the medical bill if the patient doesn’t." In this situation, B is obligated to pay A’s medical bills if A refuses to or is unable to.

Second, let us say Person C has not paid their medical bills, and is about to be sued by a medical service provider. Person D learns of C’s issue, and contacts the provider. D promises the medical provider he or she will pay the bill if the provider promises to drop the lawsuit. In this situation, D has liability to pay that provider because the provider asked for a dismissal of its case in reliance on a promise made by D.

Your Facts

Here, you did not mention any promise you made to any medical provider to pay your sister’s medical bills. Absent a promise to pay, your paying part of one of your sister’s medical providers, or even all of one provider’s bill, does not create a legal obligation to pay more. You may find a creative and unscrupulous medical bill collector will tell you that your paying part of your sister’s bill creates an obligation on your part. If someone makes that claim, laugh and tell them they are full of nonsense.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.



Dealing with debt

If you are struggling with debt, you are not alone. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Quarter Q2 2022 was $16.15 trillion. Student loan debt was $1.59 trillion and credit card debt was $0.89 trillion.

A significant percentage of people in the US are struggling with monthly payments and about 26% of households in the United States have debt in collections. According to data gathered by from a sample of credit reports, the median debt in collections is $1,739. Credit card debt is prevalent and 3% have delinquent or derogatory card debt. The median debt in collections is $422.

Each state has its rate of delinquency and share of debts in collections. For example, in Tennessee credit card delinquency rate was 4%, and the median credit card debt was $394.

Avoiding collections isn’t always possible. A sudden loss of employment, death in the family, or sickness can lead to financial hardship. Fortunately, there are many ways to deal with debt including an aggressive payment plan, debt consolidation loan, or a negotiated settlement.

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