Entries in Bill (3)


Pennsylvania Man Appeals Court's Order to Pay Mom's $93K Bill

William A. Pittas(NEW YORK) -- John Pittas, 47, is fighting a Pennsylvania court's order to pay his mother's $93,000 nursing home stay under a "filial support law" that is in effect in 29 states.

Pennsylvania's statute makes certain family members liable to "care for and maintain or financially assist" certain "indigent" members of the family, a law that some legal experts call "disturbing."

Pittas' mother, Maryann, now 66, was admitted for six months to Liberty Nursing Rehabilitation Center in Allentown, Pa., in September 2007 after breaking both legs in a car accident.  In March 2008, Pittas' mother, who was born in the U.S., relocated to Greece, where her two other children live.

As the only remaining family member left in the U.S., Pittas was left to foot the $92,943.41 bill after his mother's Medicaid application was not approved in time.  The Health Care & Retirement Corp. of America, which owns Liberty Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, sued Pittas in May 2008 for the money and a trial court sided with the nursing home in 2011.

Pittas appealed but the Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a verdict earlier this month in favor of the nursing home again.

The restaurant owner said he was "in shock" and "devastated" at the ruling and filed to re-argue his case with the Superior Court on Monday.

"I have a business and family.  My wife was pregnant with the second child at the time," Pittas said.  "The economy is not what it used to be.  I'm very worried about this and stressed."

Pittas said he is keeping his elderly mother, who is recovering from a stroke, and father, 78, both in Greece, out of the legal dispute.  His mother had a monthly income of $1,000 from Social Security and her husband's Veteran's Administration benefit.  The nursing home argued in court that her income was not enough to provide for the bill and the court established her "indigent" status.

Liberty Nursing and Rehab Center said in a statement: "We do expect to receive payment for services provided.  We work with patients and families to help them understand their options and responsibilities.  We work with the patient and family on payment options including filing for Medicaid if necessary."

Liberty spokeswoman Julie Beckert said she could not comment about the appeal filed on Monday because it is pending litigation.

In the appeal, Pittas is arguing that the court mistakenly established that he had the "financial ability to support his mother" based on his annual income of $85,000, without taking into account his expenses.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is Your Phone Bill too High? You Could Be a Victim of Cramming

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- If you open your phone bill and notice that you've been charged more than you expected, you could be a victim of cramming -- third party fees that have not been authorized by landline customers.

A new Senate report shows that these third party fees amount to a billion dollar industry, with telephone companies raking in over $2 billion each year from the estimated 300 million charges they place on their customers' bills.

Specifically, top companies like AT&T, Qwest and Verizon were found to have profited about $600 million from their cramming practices over the past five years.

The report says the practice hurts consumers, small businesses, non-profits, corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions, and that telephone companies do little when they receive complaints.  It also finds that companies' efforts to fight cramming have largely failed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How To Spot and Prevent Unauthorized Telephone Bill Fees

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- You could be paying unauthorized fees on your telephone bill -- sometimes for months or years -- and not even be aware of it.

About 15 to 20 million households are overcharged for their telephone landlines by third party companies and only 5 percent realize they are victims, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

But the FCC is about to propose high fines against companies that charge consumers excess fees, or "cramming" on their telephone bills.  The majority of cases, 82 percent, take place on landline phone services, according to the FCC.  Nearly 16 percent of cases are on wireless phone bills, while 2 percent are on "other" bills, such as voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

One FCC investigation found only 22 of 18,571 consumers surveyed used the third-party dial-around long distance service for which they were billed, which was roughly a 0.1 percent usage rate.

On Monday, Chairman Julius Genachowski said the FCC proposed high fines for companies that have taken millions of dollars from consumers through these unauthorized fees.  The FCC is also taking steps to educate consumers against companies charging hidden fees.

"These are important next steps to protect consumers from hidden fees that can cost them money, take valuable time to resolve, and undermine the public's confidence in our communications system," the chairman said.

The cramming terms sometimes used on telephone bills include: service fee, service charge, other fees, voicemail, mail server, calling plan, or membership.

Last week, the FCC proposed penalties of $11.7 million against four companies in Pennsylvania that may have billed tens of thousands of consumers in cramming charges.  The FCC charged Main Street Telephone ($4.2 million), VoiceNet Telephone, LLC ($3 million), Cheap2Dial Telephone, LLC ($3 million), and Norristown Telephone, LLC ($1.5 million).

Both cellphone and landline consumers may overlook these fees, which can range from $1.99 to $19.99 a month, on their telephone bills.  To help consumers, the FCC offers these tips to prevent and spot cramming charges:

-- Read all forms and even promotional materials, including the fine print, before signing up for telephone or other services.

-- Review your telephone bill every month, just as closely as you monitor your monthly credit card or bank statements.

-- Ask yourself if you recognize the companies, services, charges, and rates on your bill.

-- Don't ignore small charges, which can add up to big amounts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio