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Established Contributor
valley_man0505
Posts: 879
Registered: ‎05-29-2008
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Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying

My ex-wife and I have a 7 year old child together.  This child is covered under my insurance after our divorce.  Since I am the primary insurance carrier for her, I am responsible for the remaining portion that insurance doesn't cover.  I don't have a problem with this except for the fact that my ex likes to take our daughter to the emergency room every time she coughs.  Then, I get a bill in the mill (if I'm luck, sometimes I don't see a bill until a CA gets a hold of it).  Is there anything I can do to stop this?  I keep worrying that my ex will suddenly realize she has the power to bankrupt me if she just keeps taking my daughter to the ER and that she will start taking her there just to screw me over.

Senior Contributor
O6
Posts: 3,626
Registered: ‎10-13-2009
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Re: Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying


valley_man0505 wrote:

My ex-wife and I have a 7 year old child together.  This child is covered under my insurance after our divorce.  Since I am the primary insurance carrier for her, I am responsible for the remaining portion that insurance doesn't cover.  I don't have a problem with this except for the fact that my ex likes to take our daughter to the emergency room every time she coughs.  Then, I get a bill in the mill (if I'm luck, sometimes I don't see a bill until a CA gets a hold of it).  Is there anything I can do to stop this?  I keep worrying that my ex will suddenly realize she has the power to bankrupt me if she just keeps taking my daughter to the ER and that she will start taking her there just to screw me over.


Unfortunately this happens a lot.  I would suggest going back into family court and have the terms of your child support order modified.  Ask them to hold her liable for anything not covered by your insurance, or set a cap on your liability or have her liable for any ER charges that result from anything other than a real medical emergency.

 

Does your child support order specifically state you are responsible for all medical coverage not paid by your insurance?  If not, you may also deduct amounts paid by you from child support payments. 

IAALBNYL
New Visitor
Unidentified
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎07-15-2010
0

Re: Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying

I actually know a bit about pediatric emergency rooms.

A few things you can do is first find out the child's "walk-in" policy at the primary care provider/pediatrician (PCP) for illnesses (by calling there as though you're a new parent) and inquire as to any higher cost for "walk-ins" per se, so you have the facts ahead of time. Ask about waiting for an urgent appt and the risks associated with this as well as their directives for diagnosis specific symptoms (eg: asthma). The American Lung Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and even the CDC all have excellent info for parents re: contagious illness, vaccines, latest recommendations/treatment modalities etc. Arm yourself with education to best benefit your little girl. Remember to ALWAYS clearly get the doctor's home care orders and never treat your child on your own without medical direction...you could do more harm than good even if you mean to help!! If you ever have a doubt, you have a gut instinct for a reason, SO ASK. There's never a "bad" or "silly" question except for when you don't ask it!

Perhaps request a copy of the discharge instructions for each ER visit made (maybe in the modification of your child support agreement), so both you and your ex are accountable to be sure and fulfill all of these measures to limit re-visits for the same problem, as well as to appropriately pursue needed follow up. Review this with your attorney.

If your child is (ex) asthmatic, perhaps you'd even like to make an appt with her PCP for educational purposes, so you know if all is being done from a PCP and custodial parent perspective to limit acute ER visits. Find out if there has been a history of compliance from her custodial parent. Your ex-wife might truly be doing all she can to care for your daughter. Maybe she works and cannot take off work for frequent appts. Maybe you can help with this if your daughter can be seen at the PCP's office during business hours. What MD would argue with a noncustodial parent showing this interest in the education about her illness issues if you were to pay a visit to the PCP's office? Just remember to not be/act angrily, and to remember this is for your daughter. Go with with enough time to really sit down and discuss your concerns. Ask her teacher to call you/your ex-wife if he/she observes anything that's a problem, so you'll both be advised at each exacerbation, and you might be able to offer your help.

Also inquire if subspecialty is needed for even just a one time assessment (to mark in time "this is how Suzy was at age 7") by a pediatric pulmonologist, so they can evaluate your little girl and perhaps review the adequacy of the PCP's management of symptoms thus far. It might not be the PCP's fault if he/she has not had an opportunity to see the child with each episode, where a variation of "polypharmacy" prescriptions are made and perhaps duplicated or missed altogether, since a different doctor might be treating at each time in the ER. It sounds like she has a frequent cough...maybe frequently. If she is in fact asthmatic, many PCP's have a built in immediate regimen to prevent the symptoms from becoming acute. Maybe the PCP has an after hours "Telephone Triage" service hooked up with his/her office, staffed by pediatric RN's who answer questions based on algorithms and reported symptoms, that you/your ex can call in the event of symptoms, so they can direct you on the most appropriate next step. Your showing an interest in this manner would only benefit your little girl, and quite possibly enhance your credibility with the court system, so this proposal would be taken seriously, as you are not asking anything of your ex that you are not willing to do yourself.

Another argument to be made against ER visit is that the child is probably seeing a different doctor every time she goes to the ER, thus precluding the PCP from giving your child the quality of continuity of care she deserves from a pediatrician who would likely know her much better if she made use of the PCP's office appropriately.

You would be exposed to contagious illnesses in any waiting room, be it ER or PCP's office, but an ER visit means you might be exposing your child to contagious illness form an adult perspective (eg: TB, other pneumonias) if the waiting area is not a sequestered waiting room for children and parents only. I'm quite sure neither you nor your ex want to be exposed in this manner either. ER visits are potentially more costly in not just a financial way but from a health perspective also.

Your initial steps might prove costly in the way of time and money to visit PCP, your attorney and possible re-visiting the court scenario for agreement modifications, but in the long run, your little girl will benefit and one day thank you for acting on her benefit with education and further investigation behind you both.

I do not by any means suggest that if she truly has an acute need, that she do anything but immediately go to the ER. Education from your PCP and subspecialist would be you/your ex's navigation points to reference when you have a doubt. Make sure you have (ex)a nebulizer, mask, and tubing with appropriate supply of (ex) aerosol treatments at your house for when she comes to visit, so you can immediately intercede with doctor's ordered treatment if this is deemed necessary. DO NOT TREAT WITHOUT THE DOCTOR'S ORDERS!!!!! AND REVERIFY THESE FREQUENTLY!!!! (Know what EACH med is for, insist on an explanation, this is your right!)

Know the facts, the most up to date treatment regimen, and present this in a way where it will benefit everyone in a nonaggressive manner maybe with some of the above in mind, and it seems only natural that all will agree this will be better for you all, esp your little girl. She is counting on you and your ex to act on her behalf and minimize any turmoil. Keep your communications with your ex calm and to the point, and ask for repeat verbal verification from your ex with each arrangement/discussion, ...email is perhaps a good papertrail that can be referenced later. Just be sure to be discreet on the internet about your daughter's identity info, like DOB, SSN, diagnoses, test results, etc in emails, as children are one of the highest populations accessed by identity thieves.

I wish you success and the best of luck in caring for your healthy little girl. Don't be discouraged, this will all work out with a little effort, patience, and faith.

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lizbard
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎07-15-2010
0

Re: Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying

Have your attorney find out what your daughter was treated for at the ER. Show your attorney all the bills you have received. It maybe that your wife is harming your daughter by "munchausen disease" especially if she is taking her to different hospitals for the treatment. What this is is a way for her to receive attention as to how great a mother she is being to your daughter. Have your attorney ask the court for a court appointed attorney for your daughter. In most states, from what I helped my husband research for paralegal classes, both parents will be billed for half or the state may have a special fund. Your daughter's attorney could then request she be assessed by another doctor as to the state of her health. This attorney can also get copies of all medical care your daughter received at the ER and if she was later seen by a pediatrician in the daytime. The judge will look at all of this and can make a decision. It maybe that she is harming your daughter and could lose custody.

 

I would definitely be making a call to my attorney's office to see him and then take in all the bills received. If not for your financial health, but for the health of your child and her future.

New Visitor
Unidentified
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎07-15-2010
0

Re: Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying

Perhaps a court appointed attorney is a good thought, and might remove the onus of both parents' requests for review.

Munchausen-by-proxy is a very strong allegation, with a very negative connotation, to be made against someone who might just need some assertive guidance.

It might be wise to go the route of court agreement modifications and even the above suggested legal representative appointment for the daughter before any potentially more escalated tension is created by asserting a possible abuse oriented allegation into what seems like an already difficult situation. This gentleman might have more potential problems with this assertion, like with visitation, future angry communication with ex-wife (possibly in unavoidable presence of daughter), etc, if he should choose to assert the Munchausen subject early on. This difficulty might then be felt by the daughter, all unnecessarily, if only a few corrections and some accountability are first assigned by the judge, two (possibly three) attorneys, and mutually agreeing parents. Just a thought.

New Member
mysticnana
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎08-28-2009
0

Re: Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying

:smileysad: First of all it's too bad you can't speak to your ex to try to work this out, that would obviously be the 1st thing to try, however if you can't then you must petition the court to modify your current  child support agreement. I would be sure to obtain documentation to back your issues up first, because if she's going to the ER on a monthly basis rather than seeing her primary care Dr. then this is unreasonable, however if she's gone 3 or 4 times a year and your ex truly felt it was urgent then the judge will more than likely shoot you down. It will come down to reasonable versus unreasonable.....As far as the CA getting these bills before you lay eyes on them,  thats a real problem. Is your ex- wife is requesting the uninsured portion (assuming its co-pays) of the bill be mailed to you? Obviously not. Do you see your child often? I would imagine that if your being told she went to the hospital you have asked for the bill, or even called the hospital?? Just wondering........I just figured if you know she went to hospital.. don't wait for a bill since youv'e been getting them from collections, be proactive, ask your ex for exact dates or call the hospital + request a bill until your C.S. child support order is modified.  Sounds as if you will need to add this to your modification request as well. Bring the CA's to court with  you and be prepared to PROVE your case, Remember YOU have the BURDEN of PROOF,  not her. Just a word of advice: The 1st reply you recieved also told you the same thing(and was ,less wordy, Sorry) but added that if its not stipulated in your divorce you can just deduct co-pays from child support.....I would be very, very cautious here. You have to be SURE that is the case, don't just take it upon yourself to deduct from child support, you cannot alter, change or deviate from  an order from a court in ANY way or you will be the one in the hot seat!        Sorry was so long...Best of Luck!!

New Visitor
stephwest
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎01-12-2010
0

Re: Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying

Hello,

  You stated you were her primary insurance. Does this mean your daughter has secondary insurance through your ex-wife? If so, then any responsbility not paid by your insurance would fall to the secondary insurance. Any responsibility left by the secondary insuerer would actually fall to your wife. Here is the trade-off -- your premiums are higher, but any left over out-of-pocket responsibility is left to the secondary subscriber. I process claims for a major health insurance company. Unfortunately, there really is not much of a way you can stop your wife from continually bringing her to the ER, but you can push a judge to force your wife to take out a secondary insurance policy on your daughter if she does not have one already, so you are not stuck with outrageous out-of-pocket expenses. Good luck.

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MARYGONZALES
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎07-15-2010
0

Re: Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying

HI, I work in child support enforcement which also involves health insurance enforcement.  Refer back to your divorce order. Depending on your attorney and the laws in your state your order might say that both parties are equally responsible for any uncovered medical bills.  If your order states this then contact her in writing and give a run down of each medical bill you have paid. Tell her per your order she must reimburse you for half.  If she does not respond then you will have no choice but to go back to court. The judge may order her to pay you in full or he may reduce your child support partially or entirely depending on her financial status.  If your court order doesn't state this you might want to go back to court regarding the medical bills you have paid and to see if you can get that health insurance provision added into your order. I work in California and laws are different in each state.  Check with the court where you filed for divorce and see if they have a family law assistance center that can give you free legal advice and help.  Good luck!

Established Contributor
valley_man0505
Posts: 879
Registered: ‎05-29-2008
0

Re: Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying

Thanks for all of the advice.  My current divorce decree does not specifically state who is responsible for unpaid portions.  However, from what I understand, it doesn't really matter.  So far, the attorneys I have talked to said that making her "responsible" for half the bill would not be a problem.  Getting her to actually pay is the problem.  Even if she is "responsible" for her portion, the debt can still go on both of our credit reports if unpaid.  I would have a slam-dunk case to sue her for the unpaid portion she was responsible for, but this would do nothing to change what is on my credit report.  I already went through all of that with some surgery bills that my ex had from while we were still married.  The divorce decree specifically stated that she was responsible for those bills, but I ended up having to pay them ($4000+) to get them off my report.  Now, I could still sue her to get that $4000+ back, but suing her would be like trying to get 5 gallons of blood from a 2 oz turnip.  It would be a lot of work for money I would never actually see.

 

This may all end beeing a moot discussion anyway now--my ex is now in jail for a probation violation and will be there for at least a couple months.  I am using this opportunity to go for sole legal custody of our daughter.

New Visitor
cleanwiz44
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎01-20-2009
0

Re: Ex-wife running up daughter's medical bills and I get stuck with paying

Amen I am a woman,  Take her back to court.  It is about time some of these women learn responsibility and that money does not grow on trees.  My brother went back and had his child support lowered hopefully you can do the same before she does bankrupt you.  Also, if it does go to your credit report contact them and tell them the situation and after the bill is paid most of the time they will take a medical bill off your credit report.


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