Judge's Order Doesn't Stop Medical Bill Collections

An Iowa woman worries about $25,000 in medical bills for her son even though a judge's order said she should be held harmless. A court decree makes an ex-husband responsible because his health insurance lapsed. But an Iowa attorney said orders like that can create a false sense of legal security.

Jennifer Roberts 14 year old son needed an emergency appendectomy. She assumed the boy's father had medical insurance that would cover the cost. But she said, " It wasn't me who let the insurance lapse, I didn't know it." A judge ordered the ex husband responsible for the bill." But Jennifer received calls from bill collectors in both Iowa and Nebraska.

Iowa attorney Bill McGinn told Fact Finders, "Even though you may have an order that he is supposed to maintain insurance on a child, if its not that doesn't mean you are off the hook." McGinn said hospitals, labs and medical bill collectors are third parties and no party to a divorce decree from a judge.

Jennifer said she may be catching a break. After warnings she would be stuck with the bills, the hospital that cared for son son is telling her now that it will pursue payment through her ex-husband. Still she worries bill collectors for other medical expenses may not stop.

Fact Finders spoke to the ex-husband who says the insurance lapse was not intentional but due to a miscommunication with his insurance provider. That caused a brief lapse and he said the insurance provider apologized. However he said the provider still won't cover the cost. However the ex-husband is working with the hospital to get the bills paid. He said the coverage was back in affect right after his son's emergency surgery.

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