Liability of family members for deceased's medical expensive

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/01/20/bc-sarah-burke-medical-fees.html is an obvious example of what I am wondering about, but I have wondered this many times in the past about other similar cases, so consider that just as an example.

WHY was there a concern about Sarah Burke’s family paying her medical expenses? Why would they be obliged to? If Sarah had remained alive then she herself would obviously have been required to pay her expenses, but when she died didn’t the debts simply become payable by her estate? Once the estate of a deceased is exhausted I thought (both up here and in the US) I thought there was nothing further that creditors could do in terms of getting paid (at least legally; I realize they could probably pester relatives to pay, but it was my understanding the relatives were not obliged to do anything about it).

My question would be almost the same if Sarah had remained alive but had to declare bankruptcy as a result of the medical expenses. Family members would still not be obliged to help pay, would they?

I agree with you - the bills should be a liability of her estate unless someone in her family signed something when she was admitted agreeing to be responsible for the cost. If something happened to a member of my family I would be saddened beyond belief, but not financially responsible. I hope!

If she were single with no dependents, that would likely be correct. However, in this case, she was married. Assuming they had joint assets, like a house or condo, creditors could go after those assets, which could affect her husband. As well, if he had been involved in dealing with the hospital, it might be argued that he had assumed personal liability for the treatment, and therefore all of his property might be on the line as well.

Not meant as legal advice, just commenting on a matter of public interest. How any complicated situation plays out would depend on the facts and applicable laws in the jurisdiction where the treatment was given.

Under most circumstances, a surviving spouse is responsible for debts, unlike children, parents, siblings, and so on. Her husband probably signed off as a guarantor when she was admitted to the hospital, anyway.

ETA: Beaten to the punch.

Not necessarily all debts, but usually (depending as always on the law of the particular jurisdiction) a spouse is liable to pay debts incurred by the other spouse for “necessities of life”. I would think medical bills would come into that category.

I didn’t realize she was married, so I have to agree the husband would have ended up paying in one way or another.

What’s the argument that being involved in dealing with the hospital makes you assume personal liability for treatments?

Wouldn’t most Canadians be covered by your national health, even while traveling internationally?

StG

I believe they only pay what the same service would have cost at home. I could be mistaken.

I don’t think so, and that’s a big issue for Canadians who do a lot of travelling. They usually purchase supplemental insurance, I believe.

Same’s true in the US. Don’t die outside the US unless you have supplemental insurance.

Nope. As elbows said, the most a Canadian could hope for is to be reimbursed the same amount that it would cost the relevant provincial health plan up here, typically a fraction of what it costs south of the border. A Canadian would be crazy to go south of the border without extra health insurance (unless they don’t care about the possibility of going bankrupt). It’s common to be offered it when you book a trip.

Or you can purchase it at Sears. Or at least you could when I was little. The parents wouldn’t let us step one foot over the border without it.

Heck, I got short-term insurance for a trip to Europe a year ago. It was something like $40 for three weeks. I fortunately didn’t need it, but you never know what coulda happened. Some doof was throwing around big firecrackers among the party guests on New Year’s Eve. Oh, those wacky Italians…

Do they have insurance vending machines at airports?

No. But you can pick up a brochure, with a mail-in form (or a toll-free number to call, with your credit card at the ready) at the local supermarket or bank, for example. Or, your travel agent will arrange it. Or you can visit a website that will sell it to you. Or your employer-provided supplementary insurance has you covered. There are many ways to get it. But to the best of my knowledge, not at airports–I haven’t seen insurance sold at airports for many years.

Actually, dying may be your cheapest option, as long as you do it quickly.

That’s only partly true.

Medicare and Medicaid (generally) won’t cover any services outside of the United States.

A lot of (most?) private insurances will. At the company I work for we have one person who works half time processing foreign claims. There are a few caveats:

  1. You’ll (generally) have to submit the claim yourself.
  2. We don’t have a staff of interpreters. If you send a claim in French we’ll use Babel Fish or something similar to try, but if you send a claim in Thai (yes I’ve seen them) or other non-Latin characters it’ll likely be returned to you requesting you pay to have it translated into English.
    3.) We don’t (generally) have contracts with foreign providers so anything above our “Usual and Customary” payment you are still repsonsible for. Ditto charges that we consider inclusive as part of another service and such.

Medigap coverage is only for “emergency” services. And we’ll cover emergency transportation back to the US, but only to the nearest hospital. If you get sick in Mexico and want to be transported back home to Minnesota rather than to Laredo, you’ll pay dearly, likely $10,000 plus.

Yeah, Medicare was my main point.

My 82 year old dad had a fatal car accident about six years ago. Yellowknife, NT,Canada.

He was on his way from the US to Alaska, via Canada. The initial car crash put him in hospital with ruptured spleen and other injuries. They somewhat stabilized him but he needed big time care, so they life flighted him to the US. He died enroute.
Medicare billed my mom $10,000 for the life flight. She’s pretty canny and discovered that, because he was only traveling through Canada getting from the US to the US(Alaska), he was OK. Told Medicare to shove it. They never rebilled her.