Will the University of Utah Hospital sue me for my dead husband’s medical bills?

No they will not (as of July 1, 2019). That being said, most medical creditors and hospitals, including IHC, will still sue you for deceased spouse’s medical bills here in Utah.

A long-term client/friend called me out of the blue yesterday. We had been planning to file a chapter 13 because her husband had passed away and the medical creditors were circling. They had filed suits, obtained judgments, and were closing in.

She doesn’t watch the news (too depressing), but she turned on the tv to load one of her saved programs, and there was a KUTV report on a “Get Gephardt” investigation into the University of Utah’s post-death collection practices. ( I am linking the article below and cutting/pasting it).

After the report, she called the attorney for the U, explained her situation, and within 10 days, he had withdrawn all of those hospital liens/judgments against her home. Now she doesn’t need bankruptcy!

She was so happy that she called me to tell me the good news. It seemed like a very good thing to share.

Here is the article by Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair:

U of U Health abolishes heavy-handed billing policy after Get Gephardt investigation

Here is the body of the article:

LAYTON, Utah (KUTV) — This past February, Jodie Elliott’s husband, Larry, passed away unexpectedly. As she began settling his affairs, a bill arrived from University of Utah Healthcare saying Larry owes $390.85 for a trip to a dermatologist.

Elliott says she called University of Utah Healthcare and informed them that her husband was deceased.

“They said, ‘Oh, well these medical bills will now become yours and we’re going to change the bills and put them in your name,’” she said. “I said, ‘I don’t understand why I’m paying these because they’re not mine. I never signed for them.'”

Sure enough, a couple weeks later the same bill arrived demanding Elliott is responsible for the debt. Elliott protested, but it didn’t do any good.

“[University of Utah Healthcare] said, ‘Well, it’s a Utah state law; whenever a husband or a spouse dies, the remaining spouse is responsible for all the medical bills.’”

When Get Gephardt reached out to University of Utah Healthcare on Elliott’s behalf, a spokesperson pointed to state law, which says that if something is a family expense, then it’s the responsibility of both husband and wife.

When Get Gephardt asked how a man going to a dermatologist is a family expense, University of Utah Healthcare referred further comment to its lobbyist, Dave Cassel, the executive vice president of the Utah Hospital Association.

“If it saves him from getting cancer down the road, I would argue it [is a family benefit],” Cassel said.

Cassel says University of Utah Healthcare is operating within the law.

“I think, like any business, they have the right to follow this law,” he said.

University of Utah Healthcare may have the right, but their competitors don’t exercise that right.

Get Gephardt called the other major hospital groups in Utah, MountainStar and Intermountain Healthcare. Both companies stated that they absolutely do not slap a surviving spouse with his or her late loved one’s bill. They’ll go after the estate and, if it’s tapped, they write off the bill.

When Get Gephardt told University of Utah Healthcare it seems to be the only organization using the heavy-handed billing policy, it had a change of heart.

“We are changing that policy,” said Kathy Delis, the administrative director of revenue cycle support service for University Hospital. “We are changing our policy to no longer bill patients’ surviving spouses for debt that’s owing. Instead, we will bill the estate or the probate.”

Larry’s bills are no longer Jodie’s problem.

Delis says the change is a direct result of Get Gephardt’s inquiries on Elliott’s behalf.

As for other surviving spouses who have been slapped with their late loved ones’ bills, University of Utah Healthcare says it is auditing its system to find out who is impacted, and plans to write off those debts, too