Clark Howard Forum

The Clark Howard insurance forum recently had a post about how to pay medical bills for a daughter who did not have health insurance and was away in college. Here is the father's plight.

My daughter attends a major university on a full scholarship as a student athlete. She recently became ill and went to the team trainer/doctor to seek medical assistance. From her complaints, the trainer sent her to the hospital assuming that she was pregnant. The hospital did numerous tests and determined that she was not pregnant. What they failed to realize is that she had been diagnosed previously with cysts on her ovaries (which was clearly stated on her medical records) and that one had burst. When they realized this, she was treated for the burst cyst and released from care. 

After a while she received a bill from the hospital in an amount over $3,000. As a full time student, she did not have this kind of money to pay for this bill. She started getting harassed by bill collectors and didn’t know what to do. I suggested she ask her coach or counselor if there was any financial assistance available for student’s medical bills. With some research on her part, she found out that there was assistance, and filed a claim. The bill for $3,000 was taken care of. Unfortunately this was not the end of it. 

A short while later, she started receiving other bills for services provided while she was at the hospital. These bills amounted to over $2,000. The bill collectors again started harassing her. She once again went to the school and informed them of the additional charges. She was told that she had exhausted the full amount available, and that they could not help her with the additional $2,000. 

As I previously stated, my daughter is a student on a full athletic scholarship. During the sport season, she does not work and even with a job does not have the capabilities of making $2,000. Can you suggest any solutions that she might pursue to assist in clearing up this matter?

The obvious question that comes to mind is, why doesn't the daughter have health insurance? The second one is, why doesn't the father step up to the plate and help pay for the bills?

Even if the daughter does not have the money to pay the bills, the father may still be responsible whether he likes it or not.

When these questions were presented to the father he offered this response.

I was a single father for 10 years and provided everything for my daughters including $75k investment of training for my daughter to become the best of the best at a D1 school. After becoming a super star, then and only then did her mother show up to share in our daughters fame. Her mother bought her a car and offered to pay her insurance. My daughter wanted to love and trust her mother even though not being around for 10 years. Then 7 months ago her mother cancelled her insurance without notice to anyone. If I had been notified she would have had insurance, like always, even though insurance at my work just for her is over $400 p/m…and I'm still paying the debt.

So a little more insight but still no indication of parental responsibility for this part of his daughter's life.

Buying insurance AFTER THE FACT is both foolish and impossible. While no one plans on being sick or injured, life happens. When it does you have two choices.

Let your GA health insurance policy pay or you pay.

If you don't have health insurance then you pay or you stiff the medical providers that nursed you back to health or you pass it off to the taxpayers.

Some things parents need to know about their college age children.

Young people are not bullet proof. They do get sick and they do get injured. You need to plan for the possibility of those events.

You can continue children on your plan until age 26 in most cases. Sometimes that is good, sometimes not. If your coverage is through an employer chances are the cost of continuing them is several hundred dollars per month. Often it is less expensive to buy them a plan of their own.

I have several GA college students as health insurance clients and their premium is usually $150 per month or less. Much cheaper than $400 per month as an addition to the parents group health insurance plan.

Most colleges offer student health plans which appear to be inexpensive but are not. As I tell parents, there is nothing wrong with the plan until your child's health changes and they need real coverage.

Student health plans usually do not cover any pre-existing medical conditions, have limited benefits (usually less than $50,000) and are of little value if medical care is received off campus. They almost never cover prescription drugs unless dispensed by the campus clinic. The biggest problem I see is these plans automatically terminate at the end of the school year.

If your student is healthy this is not a problem, but if they need ongoing care the new policy will not cover those expenses since they are pre-existing conditions. You and your student can end up owing several hundred thousand dollars.

So plan ahead.

If you have questions about insurance you can ask us or present them on the Clark Howard forum.

Georgia Insurance Shop is a leading resource for affordable health insurance in Georgia for students and parents.

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