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Is balance billing from dentist legal in California? Is 18yr old child responsible for copay if under mother's insurance?

San Francisco, CA |

My daughter and I visited a dentist in California, where we reside, using my dental insurance, which also covered my daughter. She was already 18 at the time. It was our first visit and we had xrays and exam. According to the front desk person, it was covered by the insurance. We later received a bill for $136.00 per person, which represented the difference from amount covered by insurance and actual dentist's charge. I never paid. It went into collection and I still didn't pay.
My daughter, now 21, asked for a loan, she was denied because the debt apears on her credit report. She was under my insurance, I was responsible for the payment, how can she be subject to bad credit for non payment of medical co-payment or balance billing or any related non payment of medical/dental insurance?

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Attorney answers 2


Did your daughter sign a contract with the dentist before she was treated? Did you? Doctors and dentists ordinarily require all patients to sign contacts stating that they'll be responisble for all charges, whether submitted to and covered by insurance or not, or for any difference in cost and coverage, if that's waived, as it wasn't here.

Doctors' and dentists' offices often agree to submit insurance claims for their patients as a courtesy, but the health provider is still going to to hold the patient responsible for the treatment they get.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


I agree with the prior answer. Also, any debts incurred by a person who is 18 or older belong to that person. Unfortunately, if the debt is valid (i.e. properly billed and your daughter agreed to pay the difference between the actual bill and what insurance paid), then your daughter is responsible for this debt.

One option for having this removed from your daughter's credit report is for your daughter to dispute this debt with the all 3 credit reporting agencies. She must do this in writing.

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