Final hospital bills missing

About a year ago, my mother died in the hospital.  She had gone to the emergency room for chest pain, and died several hours later.   I have been trying to wrap up her affairs and her final bills.  She didn’t have much, but enough to pay her bills certainly.   I know she owed something to the hospital, but I don’t know how much.  I’ve never received a bill from them.  Why haven’t they sent a bill?  Should I call them about it?

Wrap-up Interrupted

Dear Wrap-up Interrupted,

It’s possible that your mother did owe the hospital money, but by the time her insurer paid and the hospital knew how much she owed, it was too late for them to bill her estate.  The hospital takes time to bill the insurer; then the insurer takes time to process the bill and pay it.  The whole process can be 90 days, or more.  There are strict rules about how long a creditor has to file a claim on someone’s estate.  These rules vary by state.

It’s also possible that the hospital chose not to bill her estate.  Some hospitals have an informal practice of not billing estates when patients die in the hospital.

You are welcome to call the hospital, and ask them about paying the bill.  You may find out that they have written it off, or that she did not owe anything.  On the other hand, you may find that the bill has just been lost in the shuffle and is on the way to you.  Whatever the case, you will at least find out what has happened and be able to plan better.

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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.