Get Out of Debt Guy

Am I Responsible for My Husband's Medical Debts?

Posted June 10, 2013

WRAL Reader Question

My husband and I separated about nine years ago, but never divorced. I have the signed and notarized divorce papers, I just never filed them. We were both content with this arrangement.

He had a job where he forgot to sign up for health insurance when he had the opportunity to do so and missed the window. So I added him to my policy.

Strictly by coincidence he needed emergency surgery five days later in another state and spent nine days in the hospital. This is someone who had always been extremely healthy, weight, blood pressure in line, no medications, nothing. The insurance company, which does this same thing for every claim (think Rainmaker, Great Benefit) denied all the claims on the possibility of a pre existing condition.The amount owed is over $70,000.00.

Of course, each provider is sending letters of collection to him. He owns nothing, not even a car. I have not signed any documentation, my name is on nothing-not a consent, financial form, nothing. We do not own a home. There are no joint credit cards. The car I have and my children's cars are in my name only.

My question is this- he is perfectly fine declaring bankruptcy if he has to to negate these bills. He is fighting the insurance company decision and has sent all of his medical records to the insurer, which clearly show no issues. If he declares bankruptcy on these bills, can they come after me? I have worked hard to rebuild my credit, I don't need this now.


Click here to get my free my weekday email newsletter with the latest tips and advice on how to beat debt and do better financially. Subscribe now.



Dear Rachel,

Just judging by where your email came from it does not appear you live in one of the community property states of Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

In that case I can't see how medical debts incurred solely by your husband would be your financial liability if he did not list you as a responsible party when he was admitted into the hospital. His bankruptcy should discharge the debts.

However, state marital law might also drag you in. In some states, a spouse can be personally liable for the "necessities of life" provided to their spouse. You should meet with a lawyer that is licensed in your state to better understand your liability.

This might just be the wakeup call you need to finally deal with this divorce one way or the other because you are just darn luck you don't live in a community property state or his individual debts while you are married can become your responsibility.

Health insurance is a complicated issue many have a misunderstanding about. Health insurance is there as a benefit to the subscriber, not the doctor. Unless the doctor or medical care provider agrees to accept assignment and the insurance payment as the full payment then the patient is always responsible for the entire debt and insurance is there to reimburse the patient and reduce their financial exposure for the debts.

Take this opportunity for him to get enrolled on his own insurance at his next possible moment so you never have to deal with this again. Who knows, maybe the insurance he has access to from his employer is more reliable than yours. It will also reduce your cost.

Steve Rhode
WRAL Get Out of Debt Guy

If you have a credit or debt question you'd like to ask about, how to get out of debt, just click here and ask away.

If you'd like to stay posted on all the latest get out of debt news and scam alerts, subscribe to my free newsletter.

I'd love to meet you at the next local Raleigh meeting of the Get Out of Debt Guy Support Group. Everyone is welcome.


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all

About this Blog:

Steve Rhode has had careers in opthalmology, real estate and as the head of a nonprofit debt counseling firm. On his blog, he offers hard-won, free advice about getting out of debt, consolidation and making the right choices as you manage your money.