Adult son's medical costs

My son is currently 21 years old. He spent 2.5 years after college working and is now a full time college student. He is now back on my health insurance.

During the 2 1/2 years he worked before going to college he was without health insurance. At first he was able to pay for a state health insurance plan for $100.00 per month. He was not able to keep current with this and lost the benefit. He obtained employment at a restaurant where in three months he would be eligible for their health care. His hours kept getting cut and the amount of time he needed to work in order to get on their health care plan kept getting extended. When he threatened to quit, he was told if he stayed they'd put him on insurance. He stayed but that promise wasn't kept. He left and started school this winter. He currently is unemployed and a full time, resident student living on campus. He is paying for school via loans.

Our question: while not on health care he was sent for diagnostic testing and acquired a debt. He recently received a letter from a debt collector indicating that he is to pay the total. What do you suggest we do? What would be the best course to respond to this summons?

My husband and I are in a five year pay back bankruptcy and unfortunately there is nothing allowed in our budget for savings or emergencies. We are unable to assist him.

Thanks for any assistance you can provide.


Comments for Adult son's medical costs

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Mar 29, 2009
Unpaid medical bills
by: Gerri

I am sorry to hear your son has had such a rough time getting health insurance coverage. Unfortunately, medical bills are one of the leading contributors to bankruptcy today.

In your email you mention getting a "summons." Is your son just getting a notice from the debt collector or has he actually been served with a summons to appear in court? The two are quite different.

My assumption is that your son ignored the bills up until now because he didn't have the ability to pay them. If he had tried to deal with them, he may have been able to get them discounted or worked out an interest-free repayment plan.

Now that they are in collections, the amount has likely grown and he must find a way to address them.

Three suggestions for you:

1. If he has been served with an actual summons, he appear in court or the collection agency will automatically get a court judgment against him for the full amount. In most states a judgment can be collected for a much longer time than a regular debt, and collectors may have additional avenues of collection open to them. That is a serious matter and he should find out what his options are. Your bankruptcy attorney may be willing to offer him a free initial consultation so he understands his rights and options. It's worth asking.

2. You don't mention a dollar amount so I don't know whether you are talking about $250 or $25000. But either way, your son should try to work out some kind of payment arrangement with the collection agency to avoid being sued, even if it means getting a side job to do so. Most collectors would prefer to avoid suing, because it is expensive, but if the dollar amount is large enough they may do so. If he simply can't afford to pay anything, then he may just need to explain to the collection agency that he has no income and assets and ask them to stop contacting him. That does not stop them from taking legal action against him, however.

3. He may still want to try to contact the original medical provider to find out if they will work something out with him. If they account has not been sold to the collection agency, they may be able to bring it back in house.

4. He should also read the book Debt Collection Answers and note if the collector uses any prohibited means of collection against him. If they do, he should talk with a consumer law attorney.

Finally, I'd encourage your son to contact his representatives in Congress and let them know how lack of medical coverage has affected him. It's very sad that he has to face this problem at such a young age. One place he can speak up is at the
Divided We Fail website. I hope he'll take this opportunity to get involved.

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