Adult son is uninsured — should I pay his hospital bill?

My 22-year-old son lives with me and has no health insurance.  (Neither do I for that matter.)  He gets severe migraines a few times a year.  This last time, he ended up in the emergency room to get pain relief.  The bills started coming to the house, and now we’re getting phone calls about it.  The woman implied that I should pay these bills for my son.  Should I?  It’s a lot of money, but maybe I could pay a little at a time.  My son does not have a job.

To Pay or Not To Pay

Dear To Pay Or Not To Pay,

Since your son is twenty-two and legally an adult, you cannot be held responsible for his bills.  You could pay the bill – exactly like you said: a little at a time – out of the goodness of your heart and to help your son have better credit in the future.  But he is on the hook for the money, not you.

You can help your son explain to the hospital that he has no insurance.  They will more than likely be willing to work out a payment plan with him, even if the plan doesn’t start until he gets a job.  They may also be willing to reduce the bill, or write it off.

Given that he will likely get another migraine, he would do well to find a clinic where he can get free care or that charges on a sliding scale.  Check the Consumers For Affordable Health Care Guide for a listing of these clinics.  When he does get health insurance, he will still need these clinics – his new plan won’t pay for his migraines for 12 months, if he has been uninsured for more than 63 days. His migraines will be what is called a “pre-existing condition.”

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.