Am I responsible for my deceased mothers medical debt?

Q: Mom was in assisted living up in Michigan after she moved in with my sister. She incurred approximately $2300 in debt to Omnicare, the pharmaceutical company used by the facility. The debt started accruing in 2016 because Omnicare was not billing correctly. They also failed to notify the facility to which they kept delivering this supposedly uncovered medicine. Mom used the medicine for years and it was always covered, before and after Omnicare. I began working with Omnicare trying to resolve this issue as soon as I learned of the problem, but to no avail. Mom had two insurances for drug coverage – one through the State of Michigan and the other Medicaid. I just heard from Omnicare for the third time since mom passed in Feb 2018. This time, they asked if mom’s estate went to probate. I cannot remember if that was asked before, but there was no probate. What little money mom had at the time of her death was applied to her burial cost. She owned no property, no stocks or bonds or investments. She was on Medicaid. Before I speak with Omnicare again, I would like to know if I am correct – that I am not responsible for this debt. (West Homestead, PA)

A: It used to be that family members had no personal liability for the debts of a decedent, unless that family member signed the contract with the provider to guarantee payment. However, some states have passed “filial” law statutes which permit providers to recover against certain family members (children included) for medical debts of an indigent person. PA has a filial law statute. I do not recall Michigan having a filial responsibility law statute, but I would check with a Michigan attorney. Whatever you do, do not agree with Omnicare or anyone else to pay these debts.

If you feel like this issue relates to you, or a problem that you are experiencing, please contact me so that we can discuss your situation.