Questions linger about medical bills for Marlise Muñoz

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by JOBIN PANICKER

WFAA

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 9:13 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 5 at 9:54 PM

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Erick Muñoz has been very open about the fight to honor his wife's wishes to be removed from life support. He said there is no other life event that compares to what he has dealt with.

"Hardest thing I've ever had to do... to see my wife and unborn child pass in front of my eyes," Muñoz said in an earlier interview with News 8.

But he is a closed book on one matter and understandably so: Who gets the bill for the extended care of his wife Marlise?

Erick Muñoz said he is completely in the dark when it comes to billing. He told News 8 that two medical bills came to his home from John Peter Smith Hospital early on, but there haven’t been any since.

"To force Eric Muñoz into bankruptcy over an act that was clearly inappropriate and wrong and should have never happened is completely and totally unfair," said his lawyer, Heather King.

Koons Fuller, the firm representing Muñoz, says now that the legal fight over Marlise's fate is done, the fight over who pays her medical bills may just be getting started. It’s a fight Koons Fuller is willing to help Erick Muñoz with.

Making matters more convoluted is knowing that JPS is publicly funded and county-owned. So is it a bill that may be covered by the citizens of Tarrant County? And the other question: How much?

The cost of prolonging Marlise's life is still unknown. Health care economist Dr. Adam Powell estimates the daily cost of intensive care unit treatment is $5,000.

Marlise was taken to the hospital on November 26 and declared brain-dead two days later. This raises the question whether Erick Muñoz is responsible for a two-day bill estimated at $10,000.

Or will he get billed for Marlise's entire 62-day stay from November 26 to January 26, when a court ordered she be removed from life support?

A projected bill for a 62-day hospital stay at a considerably larger $310,000. This does not take into account that Marlise Muñoz had health insurance, yet another factor in an already convoluted formula.

“Knowing in our hearts that our daughter passed in November but having to see her corpse for two months is the hardest part," said her mother, Lynne Machado.

JPS says Marlise's account is private — like her medical records — so a hospital representative declined to speak any further on matters relating to the bill.

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