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If you think you’re immune to damage from a collection account on your credit report because you pay your bills on time, think again. Medical bills that you don’t know about could be hurting your credit—and the odds are not in your favor.

In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports that around 31.6% of adults in the United States have collections accounts on their credit reports. That’s almost one in three Americans! Medical bills account for over half of all collections with an identifiable creditor. Chances are good that you too have a medical bill in collections.  

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    Many times, medical bills hit collections because you didn’t even realize you owed anything. Here are four common medical bill myths that can cost you dearly and the truth you need to manage your credit and medical expenses more proactively.

    Your Insurance Won’t Cover Everything

    It’s a consumer’s obligation to know what they’re responsible for paying. A lot of people are under the impression that their insurance will cover all medical costs, so they don’t owe anything. Due to how a visit or procedure is billed with insurance, this isn’t always the case. It’s always best to be prepared for the worst to prevent anything from being sent to collections.

    Insurance companies usually send out an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) before you receive a bill from the provider. Be sure to go through these important documents carefully to ensure you understand what your estimated out-of-pocket costs are. If you have questions about why something wasn’t covered, reach out to the provider and your insurance company.

    Your Medical Bills Can Be Sent to Collections, Even If You’re Paying

    Making payments on a medical bill doesn’t necessarily keep it out of collections. If you’re making small payments—or if you make your payment a few days late when you’re under a payment arrangement—you might discover the provider has turned the bill over to collections.

    Protections under the Affordable Care Act give patients at nonprofit hospitals time to apply for financial assistance before any “extraordinary collection measures” are taken. But for the most part, any unpaid balance is fair game.

    To prevent medical bills from going to collections while you’re making payments, set up a payment arrangement with the provider and get it in writing. If you make an arrangement to pay off a debt in six months and the provider agrees to it, they shouldn’t send you to collections as long as you make payments as agreed.

    Medical Collection Accounts Are Treated Differently

    This one is good news for you. Medical bills are treated differently than other bills sent to collections—at least as far as your credit report is concerned.

    • Medical Debts Are Given Less Weight: Newer scoring models such as FICO 9 and VantageScore 4.0 weight medical collections less than other types of collections so that they don’t impact a score as much. However, not all creditors use these new scoring models, so medical collections could still hurt your ability to get credit in the future.
    • Medical Debts Are Given a Grace Period: The three credit bureaus now wait 180 days before listing medical debt on your credit reports. This grace period gives you time to figure out payment options before the debt affects your credit scores.
    • Medical Debts Are Removed Once Paid: While most collections remain on your credit report for seven years, medical debt is removed once it has been paid or is being paid by insurance. Unpaid medical debt in collections will still remain on your credit report for seven years from the original delinquency date.

    Tips for Dealing with Medical Bills

    Any time you are contacted by a collection agency, you have the right to written confirmation of the debt as well as the right to dispute it. That’s your right under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you know your rights, you’re in a better position to stand up for them.

    Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you also have the right to dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports. But you have to know how to properly dispute an item on your credit report to get results.

    Some best practices to consider when dealing with medical debt include:

    • Never assume that you won’t owe. Ask your provider for details about costs, and follow up with your insurance company and provider even if you don’t get a bill.
    • Always ask for proof of what you owe. If a medical provider or its billing entity sends you a statement, it’s probably not going to contain a detailed breakdown of all the charges. You have a right to receive that information, though. Request it in writing, and then review all the charges to ensure that they reflect the services you received.
    • Compare bills to insurance EOBs. Your insurance explanation of benefits breaks down each charge. Typically, an EOB should tell you how much the provider charged, how much the insurance disallowed, how much the insurance paid and how much you owe. Make sure what you’re billed for doesn’t exceed what the insurance said you owe.
    • Make payment arrangements as soon as possible. It’s never too early to talk to your provider’s billing department. Even if they aren’t sure exactly how much you owe, start asking about payment arrangements. Many providers have processes in place to create payment schedules or discount portions of your bill if you pay in advance.
    • Ask to make monthly payments on medical bills. You may be able to make monthly payments, but you will need documented proof that the provider or collector has agreed to this. That way, if they report a negative item on your credit report, you can dispute it showing they agreed to the payments you’re making.

    Dealing with Medical Bills in Emergency Times

    The only certainties in life are death and taxes—and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that not even taxes are certain. During emergency times, rules and regulations around medical bills might change. Government interventions and hospital policies right now are making it easier for many people to seek much-needed health care during this time if they have COVID-19.

    At a time when your personal finances might also be strained by loss of income or other factors, facing medical bills might seem daunting. But even during a crisis, you shouldn’t ignore this aspect of your health care. Instead, discuss options as early as possible with your provider, and let them know if you don’t think you’ll be able to pay. If you speak up proactively, medical providers can act early to help you access any assistance that might be available.

    Any time you’re facing financial pressure because of medical bills, you might consider a personal loan. Personal loans let you spread out a large expense over time, and they might be a good option if you can’t get a medical collector to agree to a payment plan.

    Medical Debt and Your Credit Score

    If you’re concerned about how your medical debt could be impacting your credit, you can typically check your three credit reports for free once a year, but currently under the accommodations for COVID-19, you can check weekly until the end of April 2021.

    If you’d like to monitor your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card provides you with an easy-to-understand breakdown of the information in your credit report using letter grades. It also includes a free credit score that’s updated every 14 days.

    Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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    • John Saw

      Spelling: 1) Tylenol; 2) nitroglycerin.

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      Not paying the bill could adversely affect your credit score and ultimately result in a judgement or wage garnishment. You may want to consult with a consumer attorney about your best options.

      Thank you,


    • chris

      I broke my jaw a while back so i had to go to the emergency room they told me I need to have surgery on it in couple of days. The hospital that I went to was a non profit hospital so after the surgery I applied for eligibility benefits because i wasn’t working at the time and I was approved. a couple of months later they send me a bill for $30000.00 and they said that the eligibility can’t cover it although I wasn’t working and i got approved fort that same week. I’ve talked to them several tame and they said since I applied after the surgery I’m liable to paying the full amount

    • Curley60

      A broken bone is a medical emergency. Have you ever heard of a fatty embolism from bone marrow killing people from a stroke or pulmonary event?

    • Susan Gomez

      Collection agency came after me for a doctor bill from a hospital visit. I never recieved original bill & doctors billing company (original creditor) could find no record of it. I disputed it on all 3 credit reports. Collection agency then serves me with a summons. Within the summon was a date & time for supreme court hearing for January 2016. In very small writing on front page it said 30 days to respond. My husband was also named as a defendant but was not served. The collection agency was awarded a default judgement as now has a lien against my home. I have since spoken with the doctor who told me that he does not handle billing and that he would contact original billing company & have the debt dismissed as professional courtesy. Original creditor called me to tell me debt has been dismissed by the doctor & they will contact collection company to cease all colleciton activity. Collection company says its too late – they already have a judgement against me. Do I have a case to vacate judgement and defend myself?

    • James

      I have a medical bill that has been placed on my wifes credit report from a collection agency is this legal

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        Typically spouse’s aren’t responsible for each other’s debts unless they live in a community property state. Even then it’s unusual for an account to be reported on the spouse’s credit report unless they agreed (cosigned or signed something) agreeing to be liable. But if you live in a community property state it’s possible.

        Have you tried disputing it? Please read: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

    • Bowe6420

      I am too outraged by the rediculous costs of medical services. I went to a so called walk-in clinic to have my shoulder examined. I checked the website of my insurer to find one that was in network. Turned out to be a muscle strain. Now I have a $1000 bill to pay, would have been triple if not for my insurance.

      The thing that makes no sense about this is if prices are so outrageous, why are there no affordable services at competitive rates. Something is really f** up about our healthcare. Im paying a huge chunk out of every paycheck for a useless service apparantly. Things like this all the more reason to move to canada.

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        Have you checked out the website Clear Health Costs? They are trying to bring transparency to health care pricing. Dr. David Belk also has a great video on the topic on Youtube.

    • Vikki

      I understand! If your insurance doesn’t pay for their services what should we do?

    • Vikki

      My son is being sued by a collection agency, that is run by Lawyers. They want to take $300 a month for a Hospital bill of $5579. He can hardly pay the rent and food…I cannot work and on Social Security….what can be done

      • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

        Vikki —
        If repayment is impossible, perhaps he should talk with a bankruptcy attorney. Typically a consultation is free.

    • jacob

      is it legal for a insurance company to charge you(the patient) more for an prescription then it would cost them out of pocket with no insurance.

    • mary

      Went to Er with abdominal pain. Appendicitis ruled out. Bill $12,000.

    • Do W

      healthcare is the only industry that doesn’t require you sign an estimate for services and can charge a $1000 for 5 minutes of their time with no real explanation just the doctor asked how yu are feeling. just Imagine if every thing else you purchased had no upfront price and you just got a statement every month . you could eat steak every night and not have to worry about the $500 a steak price.

    • Do W

      thought the hospital would bill first and I would set up a payment plan with them. but the doctors and testers have already sent theres. I cant afford to pay 900 to a doctor for 5 minutes work. x 3 or 500 to a tester . how do you handle such a thing they are the only folks who don’t have to give an estimate. Its like if you went to a grocery store filled your basket and the cashier said no problem your charge card would bay for it and a month later she charged 500 to check you out and the grocerys were 3000 cause you were really hungry when u went shopping. I wasn’t so hungry so I only had to pay 500 for a loaf of bread and a peanut butter sandwich. wwe have to have electric around here my credit is 825

    • wordwar

      “Rule of Law” has today become just another tool of extortion. One member of your family gets sick or injured one time and suddenly you “owe” dozens of contractors and corporations tens of thousands of dollars. If you agreed to pay those specific persons those specific amounts then you should make the best effort to stick to your commitments. However, in the USA, you can refuse to even discuss business with any one of those clowns and still be “legally” on the hook for total amounts that truly are not in line with any free market mechanism.
      There are no (or rarely, or inaccurate) posted prices, contract terms are not negotiable (nullifying the definition of a contract), there are no public auctions, there is (often) no right to refuse treatment (for a spouse or minor), there is often no competition (closest ER has a total local monopoly), terms are “agreed to” (by “agreed”, courts also follow the doctrine of “implied consent” for unconscious patients) under duress (loved one’s life or limb in jeopardy, and also in physical pain), and bills charged are in no way correlated to actual amounts paid by others for the same service to the same provider.
      There isn’t even any reason for hospitals and other providers to operate in an efficient and financially sound manner if they can just play jackpot lottery to see which patients have the most money to pay, and then submit unpaid bills to state agencies for renumeration. In fact, intentionally inflating the billable costs and/or profit-shifting is how medical industry profiteers continue to be top earners in the stock market while on main street America almost no poor or even upper-middle class families can truly afford the cost of their own care. Even wealthy Americans are signing up for “Medicaid Planning” programs with asset protection attorneys across the country.
      Meanwhile people have forgotten that hospitals are non-profit organizations that exist to protect the interests of their board of trustees, who are often the very physicians who are balancing billing the patients who confuse the hospital for a charity (since there is supposedly no “profit” motive). Bear in mind the NFL and most country clubs are non-profit, but nobody would consider them charities. In fact, CEOs of physician’s groups who contract with a hospital can shift cost burdens to the hospital and allow government grants and charity drives to bail out the hospital while the physician groups can gouge their patients for pure profit. Donating to a children’s hospital may buy art and sculptures for the lobby, but the funds do not go to help parents struggling to pay. “Financial Counselors” in hospital lobbies work out a sliding scale fee that still exceeds a family’s ability to pay, but only on the condition that the family cashes in their 401k and college funds (a personal experience of mine).
      Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) are often for-profit and physician owned, having similar techniques for maximizing profit at the expense of the insured while also able to game the equity markets (ie Wall Street). Nobody likes to pay high taxes on high profits of course, so the docs make sure to attend a conference in Hawaii, Tahiti, or Monaco so they can write off costly travel as a business expense.
      I can dance the socks off anyone while arguing the injustice and unfairness of our health exploitation system. But attorneys can always win the argument that we are in fact responsible for paying these bills “under the law”. Because the laws were written over the past decades to be that way!
      Our founding fathers fought, killed, and died to fight an unfair and corrupt system that forced them to buy embossed paper from a single supplier (read about the Intolerable Acts). {Taxes on tea were long beforehand already on the books but just not enforced.}
      The British held American colonial citizens responsible for the cost of defending America during the French and Indian War. Colonists, of course, never saw it that way and resented being “balanced billed” for a military defense that was forced onto them without their agreeing first that they would have to foot the bill, and what that bill would be. Sound familiar?
      Educate yourself. Do the American thing. FIGHT THE POWER!

    • Virginia

      I just received a bill from my doctor who I have been with since mid 1990’s. The bill is from 2001, which I have never seen before. Now they are trying to tell me its been in collections all this time and I have to pay it. I have never had a lapse in insurance and it appears they never submitted this bill to my insurance back then, which would be their negligence and second, I there is a statue of limitations of 6 years. Its been 14 years. This is a doctor I have seen on a regular basis…not once has it been mentioned. Until my most recent job, I’ve only ever had to pay copays and never had to pay more. With my current insurance, every visit costs me $150.00 which I pay. So the fact that I am receiving this bill now, completely boggles me. I want to be sure that when I return the letter siting the statue of limitations for CT, that I am making a valid statement. Can you please confirm?

    • Kristy

      So…I had to have surgery for a torn tendon in my ankle…I didn’t have insurance but I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk so I had the surgery. The hospital worked with me as far the amount cause due to a tech error there were some complications. I’m not disputing the bill but I have been paying on it for over a year now and I realized the bill is going up not down. Apparently with the interst that is charged my payment doesn’t even cover the payment amount we agreed on. Is this even legal?

      • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

        Is it possible for a balance to go up while you are paying? Yes. You should look at your financial agreement. Hopefully you can renegotiate.

    • Bill

      This is weird. I had two layoffs one in 08 and one in 12. I have medical bills and other collections. A few charge offs. Being perfect for 2.5 years I now have a score of 611. I want to buy a home but I know if I pay collections it will re-age them. To me it seems like paying everything on time and just ignoring the old debts seems to be the right answer. They are all under 1000K and I have not been sued or served. I cant help but think paying anythign from 2008 or 2012 wold hurt my score and I should just ride it out

    • Tom

      GFY Hospitals. I am a socialist.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Cindy —
      It would be very unusual for a hospital to have a complete bill prepared while someone was still in the hospital. More often, bills come in more slowly, and are sometimes amended during that process. We don’t need to tell you now that ignoring a bill can cause big problems. How long ago was this hospitalization? It’s possible you could call the billing department to ask for clarification, and if you think you owe the bill, ask them if they will call it back from collections in exchange for payment. Here are some resources that may help you:
      Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?
      What Happens If I Ignore Debt Collectors?
      A Debt Collector Came After Me for $8.97

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Have you asked the hospital about applying for financial assistance? They should have staff members who can help you do that. That’s where I would suggest you start.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Unfortunately that’s the reality of our healthcare system today. Not knowing the cost of services upfront is a huge problem. In addition there is no guarantee you can negotiate on the back end.

      Do you have other debts you are having a hard time paying? If so it may be a good idea to talk with a consumer law attorney. My only concern if you don’t is that they could sue you and try to get a judgment which could make things more complicated for you.

    • Angelo_Frank

      What a country…
      Medical Bankruptcy accounts for majority of personal bankruptcies

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      That’s a huge problem and there is no simple answer. We wrote about this situation in these articles:

      http://blog.credit.com/2014/04/should-a-surgery-cost-6k-or-100k-79281/ and

      The $83,000 Finger: Insurance May Not Protect You From Large Medical Bills

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      In an emergency situation, not necessarily. But yes, you would be responsible because you received the services. However, it’s possible you can negotiate to get the bills trimmed considerably. (And know you are far from alone. Here’s what happened to a young woman who had a heart attack and how she is responding: Why Going to the ‘Wrong’ Hospital Cost Me $50,000.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      It sounds like a billing nightmare. I will be reaching out to you by email.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Yes. Talk with a consumer law attorney. Check out the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. It would also be wise for you to get your credit reports so you can document any damage to your credit. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports.

    • Kris

      Am I responsible for a bill that wasn’t paid by my insurance? I told a collector I had insurance time of service for my childs first pedi doc check in the hospitasl after birth. Also that the child was covered under my insruance the first 30 days under a state law. He stated they only have up to a year to file the claim or it will deny. So I said than I’m suppose to pay for it because someone in the pedi’s doc office didnt do their job from 2007 and also never contacted me about my it or to get my insurnace info thatt I thought they got form the hospital that was on record! He said yes it was my resposiblity to pay it….

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        What kind of insurance did you have? Was this hospital a participating (in-network) provider under your insurance plan?

        What state do you live in? It may be outside of the statute of limitations.

        Have you checked your credit reports to see if it is on there?

        When did you first hear from this debt collector?

        The debt collector should allow you to dispute it. Please be aware that if you make payments or a payment arrangement with the collector you may revive the statute of limitations. You do have some rights here and you need to proceed with caution.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      We are suggesting reserving the emergency room for real emergencies. Minor emergencies (stitches, setting a broken bone) can often be taken care of outside the emergencies. But emergency rooms are their for a reason. It sounds as if you used yours appropriately. We hope your wife is healthy now.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      They aren’t obligated to accept what you can afford. You can either try to negotiate, tell them you can’t pay (which may or may not lead to a lawsuit) or talk with a consumer law attorney. So sorry you are having such a rough time.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I had to go to the ER recently myself! There are times when it is necessary – and I am glad they are there when needed. However, I still find many billing practices concerning.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      First, don’t pay “them” until you are certain of who it is and that they own the debt. But yes, interest and often fees can be added to the original bill. For more information, see The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Probably not. That bill is likely beyond the statute of limitations and uncollectable. (But is it legal to ask for the money? It is. However, a bill this old that has never been paid is also too old to be on your credit reports.) You can find information on statutes of limitation here:
      Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State

      You may also feel reassured by some of the information in this post:
      8 Things Debt Collectors Won’t Tell You

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Sent you an email

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Great question Stephanie! We turned it into an article: Will Keeping Your Kids On Your Insurance Hurt Your Credit?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      What state do you live in? Is that the same state where this all occurred? Are they trying to collect from you?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Absolutely. If the chiropractor was a participating provider with your insurance company, then very likely its contract with the insurance company prohibits it from “balance billing” you due to its mistake. Call your insurance company for advice (take good notes). Also get your free annual credit reports and a free credit score so you have documentation of how this has affected your credit. Very likely the chiro will need to pull it back from collections to restore your credit. We wrote about that here: Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I am not aware of any specific laws that prohibit this practice, but I think you could definitely raise a stink and hopefully get it reversed. I’d suggest you be polite but very firm. Put your complaint in writing certified mail and ask the medical office to pull it back from collections. State that you will be monitoring your credit reports for possible credit damage if the collection account is reported. (And do so! Get your free annual credit reports and also get your free credit score from Credit.com immediately.)

      I’d also suggest you contact your insurance company. If the medical provider is a participating provider their contracts with the insurance agency may protect you. Ask them for their help resolving this with the provider. Keep excellent written notes of every conversation.

      To be fair, the people who handle medical billing are often underpaid, overworked and have to deal with myriad insurance requirements. So try to empathize with them but be firm about the resolution you want. This article may help:

      Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit

    • Greg Rozelle

      I was told by a hospital worker, that they have only a year to bill you. 15 months is more that a year. I don’t know if that a state or federal law.

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        That’s usually a contractual issue. If the provider is a *participating* provider in an insurance network they typically have a certain amount of time to bill the insurance company. If they don’t bill in time they don’t get paid, and they can’t collect the balance the insurance would have paid from the patient.

        DLH – Check with the insurance company you had at the time to see what their policy is.

    • Greg Rozelle

      Is it true, that ACA now requires all hospital to set up affordable payment plans instead of sending the debt to collection agency? I read something to that effect in the ACA but I could of misunderstood it. It took awhile but read the whole thing. However, I didn’t understand a lot of it, to technical.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I am afraid I don’t have a simple answer for you. There are no uniform medical billing rights laws if that’s what you are hoping for. My best suggestion is that you try to find someone higher up at the hospital to speak with. Explain that you really do want to pay – and then make it a priority to do so. If it gets turned over to collections your credit will likely take a serious hit.

      if you are able to work out something to keep on the payment plan, get it in writing. If they won’t send it in writing to you write your own letter stating who you talked with, when and what was agreed. Send it by certified mail and keep a copy for your records.

      This article may have additional information that helps: Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I understand completely, but personal injury attorneys typically charge on contingency which means the injured person doesn’t have to pay up front.

      Desperate – I did think of one other option. Since you are in Texas the Texas Consumer Complaint Center affiliated with the University of Houston may be able to help: http://www.texasccc.com/

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Did you ever talk to your own attorney? I don’t know if it’s too late but if I were in your shoes that’s the first thing I would do.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Yes they should. Unless you were sued and a judgment was obtained. A judgment has its own reporting period. If you were sued and the creditor got a judgment against you it would be a longer time period.

      But in order for this to happen, the collection agencies must be reporting the original date of delinquency correctly to the credit reporting agencies. It should be listed on your reports. Double check. If it’s not, or if the date is wrong you will need to dispute it. Here’s our guide that explains step-by-step how to dispute credit report mistakes.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Perhaps you should try to get your Congressional representative and/or Senators to help.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      That has been the case before the Affordable Care Act went into place. It’s not a function of the ACA. In addition just because they say they will negotiate if you don’t have insurance that is no indication that the amount they would offer would be affordable or that the balance wouldn’t be turned over to collections. We’ve been fielding complaints regarding those kinds of practices for years.

      • Do W

        without the lawyers does anyone really believe a hospital insurance company would only charge a small amount for services. take away the huge amount the government pays for services and think the amount will go down. just buy them all porsches and Mercedes and be done with it. corporate welfare is where the money is really going .

    • Colton

      I was wondering if this is legal I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me. My son was born july2012. We paid all bills sent in full immediately. I even called the hospital and they said we were all paid up to ensure it. November 2013 I get a bill from the hospital where I owed them 900 dollars. After calling the hospital I learned the bill was a payment the insurance co. Decided to take back so of course the hospital came after me. Now I’m not sure to pay it or take it up in small claims court. I would greatly appreciate if you could help me with this matter

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        Have you spoken to the insurance company to find out why they rescinded the payment? What did they say? Was the hospital a participating provider?

        • Colton

          Yes mam they said it was because my deductible was not met which they didn’t catch until later. Which I have a hard time believing since my out of pocket was 2500 and after paying what wasn’t covered and out of pocket I wrote them a check for 3500 dollars.

          • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

            It sounds like you have to try to figure out whether you really owe the amount in question. It is possible that you did since the deductible and out of pocket limits may be different amounts. (For example, you could have a $2500 deductible and after that you pay 20% of allowable charges up to $5000.) If you still have your policy documents, review them carefully, along with your Explanations of Benefits, and if you still don’t understand, start by talking with your insurance company to try to get a clear answer. If the insurance company can’t explain it to your satisfaction see if you can file an appeal. You can always try taking it up with your state insurance commissioner.

            This article may help: The Ultimate Guide to Solving Your Medical Bill Problems

        • Colton

          And yes mam it was a participating provider

    • http://consumerrecoverynetwork.com/ask-a-question/ Michael Bovee

      Who is the debt collector?

    • yesenia

      I have a question i gave birth to my daughters one in 2012 the other in 2013. At the time medicaid said they had covered the cost.
      Months later i get a phone call from a debt collector sayin i owe the hospital, so i called medicaid they said to go ahead and send in the bills i called the collectors to geg the bills they said medicaid wouldnt cover it because it was pass there 90 day limit. So how can i get these bills of my credit report? Or what can i do to get medicaid to pay it off and be taken off my credit report?

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        I am not sure exactly what you are saying happened but it sounds like you are saying that the medical providers did not bill Medicaid within 90 says as required? Is that correct? If so, have you gone back to the providers to ask them what happened? (The debt collectors aren’t the ones to ask about this – they were just assigned the bill by the provider.) The providers may not be able to charge you if their billing error resulted in coverage being denied (that’s called “balance billing”) but you should be dealing directly with the provider that originally billed you.

        In the meantime you have the right under federal law to dispute the collection account. You must put your request in writing within 30 days. It doesn’t make the debt go away but if will buy you some time while you try to figure out your options.

        Make sure in all of this that you keep careful notes of everyone you talk with. I don’t know how Medicaid billing disputes are handled, but your state Medicaid office should be able to point you to information about how to lodge a dispute.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Really sorry to hear you are not getting the treatment you need.

      My understanding is that your doctor may be able to refuse treatment if you have unpaid bills. It’s my understanding that only certain hospitals cannot deny treatment for emergency care. You may want to check with your state health department to find out what other options are available to you given your disability.

      I’ll also check with other experts to see if they have suggestions for you.

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        I checked with Mark Rukavina, one of our contributors and an expert on these issues, and he asked me to ask you whether the doctor is affiliated with a clinic, hospital, physician group, or is a free-standing office.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Was this provider in network? Was your son under the age of 18? Any idea whey they put you in collections instead of him?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Was this provider in network? Was your son under the age of 18? Any idea whey they put you in collections instead of him?

    • Sam

      I Just received a phone call the other day from a friend and someone showed up at their house to serve me with a summons for a medical bill that i did not even knew was out there. And i am not sure even how to get any of it taken care of because i have no idea what it would be for. Any advice?

      • http://consumerrecoverynetwork.com/ask-a-question/ Michael Bovee

        I would start with reviewing the lawsuit and identifying the service provider and what it was this bill was for. Determine if this is a legitimate debt that you agree you owe first. Once you can answer that, you can best evaluate your next steps.

        Time is not on your side with collection lawsuits. Post what you learn and lets go from there.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler


    • pooganis

      I have one blemish on my credit report and it is a medical bill for $81 that went into collection in 2008. It was paid shortly after going into collection. Since the newest version of the FICO scoring system ignores these types of accounts, should it have already been removed from my report(s)? I’m applying for a mortgage and I believe it could cost me thousands of dollars over the coming years.

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        Collection accounts can remain on your credit reports for seven years plus 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor. What FICO does with it is their choice, but it doesn’t affect how long it is reported.

        Secondly, the FICO score model the lender is using may not ignore that collection account – I don’t believe the older one used in mortgage underwriting does. But it’s still old and small, and shouldn’t have a significant impact on your scores.

        If you dispute it and it’s not confirmed it will be removed. But please be careful timing-wise as credit report disputes can hold up mortgage applications. We just wrote about that here: How a Credit Report Dispute Could Stop You From Buying a Home

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Medicaid laws can very by state. You may be able to find your state’s rules at the federal government’s Medicaid site:

    • dsteph

      I have been in a desperate search for resolution to my hospital billing issue. My husband has very good insurance so there is no complaint there. Our daughter was in the hospital last March for 3 days. Ambulance, ER, etc. In June, we got a series of loans and refinancing to pay off the potions of billing not covered by insurance. Paid everything in full. About the end of July to early August, we received a check from the insurance company. I at first thought we had over paid the hospital billing, but to be safe I called the insurance company to inquire further. They informed me that there was a bill for the hospital that required a report. The report had never been received, therefore they sent us a check for the billed amount. (I’m thinking to you don’t pay for something that was not billed correctly) So, I then called the hospital to inquire about any unpaid amounts, and to be safe I inquired on both my daughter and myself as we had both been there that year. No billing found. Zero balances. I had the hospital send me a statement showing that. We still held onto the check for another 2 weeks. Then in September we received a bill from the hospital for more than the check, stating we owed them and they knew we had received a check previously. Now this thing has gone to collections. I have no excuse for not handling this then, however I have tons of excuses as life kicked our butts every day, all day last year. Any advice?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Most likely not. In general, the parents were also asked to sign forms taking financial responsibility for the minor’s health care. This resource from Credit.com might be useful to you:
      Medical Bills & Minors: What You Need to Know

    • bettaboy

      Question: After a building fire in NYC (3,500 violations and NO one went to jail) and resulting chemical injury I am on very indigent SSD (was young and in night college for Masters in Health field). Now with sister in WA (or would have been homeless) and already know Medicaire pays for little (I recovered from end stage vegetative using entirely holistic means) but did certain standard test as now I am 60. I minored in NYC Government as well as other areas (bio chemistry) and worked for health practitioners.

      Now I requested from both Nurse (under nurse status but not sure what they are called) and lab, IF Medicare pays for these simple standard test. ALL said yes but Medicare did not. Ok so work out partial payment with lab and made final payment last month.

      I called the lab and requested a final statement showing I am paid in full. Somewhere in my education I am entitled to this “contract resolution”??? I was told by first person, they did not have to do this, but after I asked to speak with their manager, I was told they would send a “courtesy letter”??? I then spent hours calling the WA state (useless) Attorney General, Health Department and various agencies I was forwarded to – all leading to no where. I thought NYC was crazy!

      Anyway called back and found on this and other sites that medical debt is “unsecured debt” and treated like credit cards so “bluffed” them with this info and will be sent pertinent information on letterhead, saying account is paid in full and closed.

      Does any one know the exact code, law or otherwise ??? that states this must be done – or can they not do so?

      Thanks up front for any help.

    • http://consumerrecoverynetwork.com/ask-a-question/ Michael Bovee

      Vickie – Have you confirmed that there is a collection appearing on your credit report from this? My feedback will change a bit depending on the answer.

      Whether a collection item is paid fully in a single payment, or paid off over a series payments – there is typically not going to be a credit benefit from the method. It’s the end result, the zero balance owed, that you want.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Sally – Since he is an adult, probably not unless there was some agreement to the contrary. If he were a minor at the time, then you could be. We wrote about this here:

      Medical Bills and Minors – What You Need to Know

      However, this isn’t legal advice and you’ll want to check with a consumer law attorney or your state attorney general’s office to be sure.

      Also, if your son is overwhelmed by these bills – even after charity care reductions have been made – he may want to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney. The attorney should be able to explain whether you can be help liable yourself.

    • David

      How long do I will I be harassed by collection agencies? I was sick in 2007 and ended up with a bill for nearly $4000. I have not been able to pay said bill and it has gone from one collection agency to another. Also, if I was to die, would my family be responsible for paying this old debt?

      • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

        How long a collector is legally able to attempt to collect a debt depends on the statue of limitations (SOL) in your state and the type of debt. Some states have SOLs that are as short as 4 years, others as long as 15 (Kentucky) so it really depends. To find the SOL in your state, this resource may help: Statue of Limitations on Debt Collection By State

        Keep in mind, too, that if the collector sues and is awarded a judgment against you, the judgment can remain indefinitely. You can read more about that here: Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You – Now What?

        If you die, your family wouldn’t be responsible for the debt. Only co-signers and joint account holders would be held liable, unless you live in a community property state. In which case, your spouse may be liable for the debt depending on the type of debt and your individual state laws. For more on this, this should help: Who Pays Your Debt When You Die?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      This is a huge problem. In fact, the New York Department of Financial
      Services released a report about this, and I summarized it in this
      There is no simple solution that I am aware of unfortunately. I would
      recommend you negotiating with the providers to try to get the bills down to what you can afford. If you can’t do that and
      the bills are very large then you may need to talk with a bankruptcy
      attorney. You may also want to talk with your state department of insurance to find out if any consumer protections in your state might apply.

    • JACKIE


    • lionshooter

      Two years ago, I saw an ENT for a sinus problem. The doctor was not the one referred to me but another partner in the group. I explained the problem of constant nasal drip and inability to breathe through my nose. He proceeded to put me through a 30 minute hearing test and determined that I had a 50% loss in the right ear. I’ve known that for 40 years because it was a result of a diving accident. The doctor also removed some wax accumulation which I normally do with a Qtip. He prescribed an antihistamine, Loratadine, and sent me home.
      The antihistamine didn’t work and a month later I had to have surgery. Different doctor group. Now I’m OK. EXCEPT…the 1st doctor sent me a bill for over $600 for the hearing exam which I never requested, and a $375 bill for wax removal.
      I refused to pay.
      It went to collections. I explained all the above to the collection agency and challenged them to sue me in court. Told them I was dying to get a chance to lay this out to a jury of my peers. I have never heard another word from anyone about it and a year later, it has not shown up on my credit reports.

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    • Jason Cooksey

      On April 11 of this year I had emergency surgery. My insurance paid $55,000 of the cost, according to the statement we received from the hospital on June 1. We then received a follow up statement on June 23 with a balance owed of $835. Today, July 8, we received a notice from the collection agency for that balance. Can they really send us to collections so quickly?

      I read through the California law that states the hospital must give you 150 days to settle. We are not wealthy but do we have to be at poverty level to have that protection?

    • cmik71

      About months ago I was out of work because of a work related injury. Was hit in the head just above my left eye which caused me to have a fairly sever concussion. It also left me with continuing head aches and also vision problems. Long story short I was forced to settle the case and was left with no insurance or job. After few months of the case being settled I woke up one night with a severe pain in my lower back, later finding out it was a kidney stone. At the time I was not aware of what it was, and let me just say i’m a grow man an d can deal with pain but this pain was the worst thing I had ever experienced. Being in so much pain and having no idea what was wrong my wife called an ambulance and I went to the emergency room. After a few days the stone passed and I felt much better. So I began the process of trying to get some state assistance, in the mean time I was searching very hard for a new job, and found one, a person would think well thats great, but its not. Since I found a job the state used my current income which was not my income when the kiddney stone happened to begin with and I was turned down for ANY assistance of any kind. Now I am left with a $10,000 ambulance bill as well as $15,000 to $20,000 in emergency room hospital bills. All because I kept trying to be responsible and went and got a job before the state could come through with thier decision. Also let me add that my wife, due to a heart defect she was born with called atrisia tricuspid which means she was born with only 2 chambers of her heart in stead of the 4 everyone else has. She is on social security and only works part time. Got any suggestions for me?

    • Stressed

      Gerri, about 4 years ago I was in a solo car accident and was brought into a hospital (right down the block) by the ambulance. I was working part time at the time and did not have any medical insurance. I was there for about an hour or 2. They did a full scan on me and a couple of staples to one of my knees. After a couple weeks I received a Doctors bill for about $500 or $600 and I wrote a check to pay it right away. Many months later I received a bill from what seems to be a collections place asking for over $12,000 on behalf of the hospital. They said the original bill was $50,00 and they gave a discount down to $30,000 and now this collection place is asking for over $12,000. I was in barely 24 years old and didn’t have that kind of money. I did go back to the hospital to ask for the itemized bill because I just cannot understand how 2 hours at the hospital cost $50,0000! I couldn’t understand the bill at all. They had all sorts of small charges with codes that ranked up thousands of dollars. And because they called in an emergency code when they brought me in, that automatically cost like $10,000?? I don’t get it! So now it’s been quite a few years… I have not heard from any collection agencies or the hospital. I have moved once since but the mails should have been forwarded if any had come. I’ve checked my credit report and don’t see it on there. I went to the hospital website and see that they still have me listed owing over $30,000. I find it very unfair for the bill to be that high. I would like to take care of this if there’s a way for them to bring the cost down and for me to make payments but who do I talk to? I tried going to the hospital but they staff there was not able to help me. This has been really stressing me out. I don’t want to ignore it and have it become worse in the future. Please help…

      • Gerri Detweiler

        You were likely charged the “chargemaster” rates which have nothing to do with reality. Steven Brill did a good job explaining this in his article, Bitter Pill. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2136864,00.html

        The first thing you need to find out is what your state’s statute of limitations is for this debt. Where do you live? The statute of limitations may expire after four years. If it does, then if they try to sue you for this debt, you can go to court and raise the statute of limitations as a defense.

        If it has not then you are facing an uphill battle, trying to negotiate the bill itself after all of these years. (You may have also been eligible for financial assistance but didn’t know.)

        As far as I know, you likely have two options: to try to negotiate for even less with the collection agency or to see a bankruptcy attorney. I highly doubt you’d get anywhere trying to negotiate with the hospital at this point.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Unfortunately, the provider/collector doesn’t have to agree to accept monthly payments and in many cases, they prefer full payment over monthly installments. Legally, they are within their rights and can send the account to collections if the bill isn’t paid according to the initial terms that were signed and agreed upon prior to the procedure. (Typically it’s the form we sign claiming responsibility of the debt in the event insurance doesn’t cover the procedure.)

      I know it’s frustrating that they won’t work with you, especially after having made the $150 good faith payments each month, but if they were once willing to work out payments with a recurring auto billed payment schedule, it would be worth contacting them to see if doing so would keep the account from going to collections. If they agree, I’d even go so far as to set up recurring auto payments to go to a credit card (at least for the next five months until the debt is paid) to avoid having the account go to collections. Worst case, you’d have the ability to pay the credit card bill when you get paid so that you’re not having to worry about your auto payment conflicting with the dates you get paid. If they agree to this, make sure you get the agreement in writing so that there are no misunderstandings going forward.

      In the end, it’s best to do whatever you can to keep the account from going to collections — even if it means paying the remaining balance on a credit card and then making the payments to the credit card for the next five months.

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    • gmike1975@hotmail.com

      We had a bait and switch happen to us. We were told a minor removal of a mole would cost us $120 and nothing more at a doctors office. AND we had to pay for it up front. Then after the procedure was over with they sent us a $700 bill 30 days later. We have called the BBB and the insurance company(who referred them to us) and no one is helping us get this bill removed. Is there anything we can do to stop them? The company that removed it said we are responsible for the charges and hung up on us when we called to dispute it. They were rude and flat out told us “you need to pay us”! and then hung up.
      We dont want this on our credit becuase we are trying to buy a home.
      Are we stuck with paying this?

      • Deanna Templeton

        If your insurance company referred them, you’d think they’d do so because they were in your network and covered under your plan. Very frustrating. If you’re not getting anywhere with the insurance company, there are a couple of other resources to try:

        1. File a complaint with your state medical board. For a complete directory from the Federation of State Medical Boards, visit http://www.fsmb.org/directory_smb.html. You can also call the Federation at 817-868-4000 to get the phone number of your state’s medical board.

        2. You can also file a complaint with your state Attorney General’s office, most of which offer an online consumer complaint option. For contact information, including address, phone number, and website address, use this state-by-state listing of current Attorney Generals here: http://www.naag.org/current-attorneys-general.php

        It probably wouldn’t hurt to notify the doctor’s office and your insurance provider, it may help incentivize them to work with you. I’d also strongly suggest that you keep detailed records and document everything. If this doesn’t help resolve the problem, you’ll want to have a paper trail in the event that you end up fighting the charge in court. In which case, it wouldn’t hurt to consult with a consumer law attorney for more substantial advice.

    • http://n/a John C. Williams

      Back in early 2008 I came down with a fairly bad case of the flu, and did not feel up to driving myself to my doctor in a nearby town; therefore, I opted for the local ER (aka: band-aid station) only a couple of miles away. BAD mistake. First of all, I specifically asked IF a doctor was available who could see in the clinic next door; they were booked up, and I needed to get some relief. Therefore, I went to the ER, knowing that I had an insurance card, and that I SHOULD be informed if the ER would be able to see me, and that the facility would honor my insurance. The response was that they “were not very busy,” and I was escorted into a private room, where I sat for I would say approx. 15 minutes tops. My vital signs were taken, and the dr. on duty finally arrived, looked at me for perhaps 5 minutes IF THAT and announced that I diagnosed me as having a case of the flu. Medication was prescribed, and I specifically ASKED HIM what his fee for services was; he said, laughingly, that he did not know. The lady at the desk also stated she “did not know.” This seems to be the Standard Operating Procedure nowadays. Since this “visit” I have avoided religiously ALL ER’S and essentially all doctors. I received a
      first bill for this “visit” in the amount of $406. for “services rendered,” which were none specific, and I declined to pay more than $100. Some two years later, if not sooner, I received a notice from a collection agency, and I think I added 40 or 50 more bucks. Now, as of today, I am not in receipt of yet another collection notice, requesting that I send $179.40 to settle this old account. I made it clear in a letter over two years ago that I had made my LAST payment, and that IF they accepted it, then I considered the case closed. I utterly refuse to make any more payments on this trumped up bill. Your comments are invited.

    • Michelle

      I have an emergency room bill from 12/2006 that is being reported as 180+ days past due on a monthly basis instead of being listed as a collection account which is devastating my score from what my loan officer tells me (I’m trying to get a home loan). Is there a law against this and how can I dispute it? I have tried through the credit bureau and they say the original creditor has to update it and they refuse to. Thanks.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        You’re right Michelle – that is very bad for your credit. It may also extend the amount of time that debt can remain on your credit reports, which may be illegal. You can go one of two routes: file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Burea at ConsumerFinance.gov or talk with a consumer law attorney (find one at NACA.net) to see whether this may be a violation of your rights under federal laws.

        Will you let us know what happens?

    • Credit.com

      You’d be surprised how often this type of thing happens. Here’s what we’d suggest you do: Have your daughter file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies to have the collection removed. She’ll want to explain everything you’ve explained here, that she was 14 years old, etc. Send the dispute registered mail with return receipt requested and keep copies of everything. Here’s a great resource that’ll walk you through the dispute process: Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

      If the collector/credit reporting agencies refuse to remove the collection, her next line of defense would be to file a complaint with the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). If that doesn’t get her anywhere, her last option is to contact a consumer law attorney. To find a consumer law attorney in your area, visit NACA.net.

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    • Arpegea

      I didn’t see anything similar to my question, so I’m going to give it a shot. My daughter was sick back in 2008, when she was 14. We took her to urgent care and didn’t know we owed anything. Today, April 2013 we took her to buy her first car expecting her credit to be empty. Instead she has a $267 collection for the visit 5 years ago when she was a minor. Can they do this?? They should be going after the person who claimed responsibility…which is me! I could have handled it on my credit…but can they really go after a 14 year old??

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Maybe, maybe not. I’ve heard different opinions on this from various attorneys I’ve spoken with. Here are two articles that may help:http://blog.credit.com/2012/12/medical-bills-and-minors-what-you-need-to-know/ and http://blog.credit.com/2013/08/help-my-ex-is-trying-to-stick-me-with-the-kids-medical-bills/

        I’d at least encourage your daughter to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You may also want to think about consulting a consumer law attorney.

      • tj

        Super late to the conversation but for readers in the future… the answer is both yes and no. Medical care is viewed as a necessity and minors can form a contract for necessities only. But a 14 year old can’t get her own treatment without a parents involvement, so her care contract would have been between her parents and the hospital. This credit issue can be removed and the debt would be owned by the parents.

    • http://Valorie.A.Davis@usdoj.gov Valorie

      I have bult a total of 4000-500 medical bills. They have forward me to the collection agency FICO. My question is: Will I be able to get an apartment The only credit I have is making payments on time with my current rent. ALso, will I get fired for having accumulated unpaid medical bills that has been turned over to the FICO.

      • Credit.com

        Valorie – I think you’re confusing FICO with some other company. FICO is a company that develops credit score models, (the FICO score). They do not have access to your credit reports, nor do they house data or collect information from creditors, collectors, etc. If the medical bills have been forwarded to collections, it’s most likely to a collection company (not FICO).

        Unfortunately, rent payments aren’t reported to the credit reporting agencies so even though you’ve paid your rent on time every month, it’s not going to be in your credit report and it won’t help you build credit.

        As far as your employer firing you for unpaid medical debts, it’s doubtful that you’d have to worry about that happening unless you have a gov’t sensitive, high security clearance job– or one that deals directly with money or financial transactions for the company you work for. In which case, this would be stipulated as part of your employment agreement and your employer would have to have your authorization to access your credit report data. Even then, medical bills would most likely be considered much differently than not paying a credit card or car loan for example, so I don’t think this is something you need to stress or worry too much about. It’s bad enough you’re dealing with the stress of the medical collection.

        Dealing with a collection can be nerve-wracking but here are a few resources that I think will help explain your options and give you a better understanding of the process:

        1. The Dos and Don’ts of Paying a Debt Collector
        2. Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit
        3. The 7 Biggest Questions About Debt Collections & Your Credit
        4. Debt Collectors Killing Your Credit? Here’s What To Do

      • Gerri Detweiler

        FICO is not a collection agency. They create credit scores based on the information in your credit reports. The debts are no doubt being reported on your credit reports, which does hurt your scores. Most employers won’t fire someone due to negative information that is added to their credit reports, but that are allowed to review credit reports after getting your written permission to do so.

        Can you negotiate a settlement on these bills with the collection agency? If so, that may be the way to go.

    • Kay

      My son had to have surgery in 2011. The facility billed us an extra 810.00. My husband was laid off so we couldn’t pay for quite a while. When we were able to pay, I called to set up payments, they had already sent our bill to collections. He needs surgery again and our Dr. uses this same facility. I’m concerned they will not allow his surgery to take place because of the past. Do you have any info about this?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I am sorry to hear what your family is going through. There is no way to know what their policy is with regard to unpaid bills until you ask. Be upfront with them and also be sure to ask about financial assistance up front. It really doesn’t hurt to ask.

    • Quentin

      All these Doctors can kiss my ass. I have plenty of money to pay my bills, but I refuse to pay the outragious prices that these BS Doctors charge for their services. My wife had to take my daughter to the emergency room in Madison, WI last Summer for a possible broken ankle. They refused to see my daughter until my wife provided my insurance card. They accepted it and had my daughter sit in the hallway for 2 hours. They then sent her and my wife to xray. They took the xray and sent her back to the hallway to wait. About 15 minutes later the nurse arrived with an ankle brace for her and sent them on there way. Two months later we get a bill from the hospital for $1500.00. They stated that my wonderful Blue Cross/Blue Shield (Federal) wouldn’t pay the bill. I call my Insurance Co and find out that the Hospital isn’t (A Preferred Hospital). Then I get an Insurance statement from BCBS stating that they covered the xray bill ($900). Then I get another bill from the Doctor (Which my daughter or wife never saw) for $950. Again BCBS stating that this Doctor wasn’t a preferred provider. So I appeal the bill with BCBS and they agree to pay the $1500 hospital bill, but only $250 of the Doctor bill. So now I’m getting $700 Doctor bills in the mail. I informed the billing service that I was only will to pay the $250 that my insurance was willing to pay. This is the amount my insurance would have paid if the Doctor was a prefered provider. They stated that they don’t do that and that the entire payment was expected in full. I told them that I am refusing to pay anymore. So I guess now I’m going to get hammered on my credit report because I refuse to pay a medical bill to a Doctor that was probably playing golf at the time my daughter was in the ER. All I know is that we are being billed by a Doctor nobody ever saw. Where is the justice in the system. These damn Doctors and the Insurance Companies have distroyed our medical system over the past few decades. I’m sorry, but fare is fare. Nobody ever paid me $950 for doing absolutely nothing. Not to mention the $1500 hospital bill my insurance paid for having my daughter sit in a dirty hallway 2 and a half hours for. (O’ I forgot the ankle brace. I could have bought that at Walmart for $20). I guess that justifies them charging $1500 for. When is something going to be done about the medical care in our Country? I’m sorry, but have you all noticed that the only business’s expanding in the USA are Hospitals and Banks? Plus I know a bunch of Doctor’s, and not one of them lives in a house worth less than $700,000. Now I work for the Federal Prison System. Between the Military and the Prison system I now have over 31 years of Federal Service. I have yet to make $35 an hour. No I am being furloughed because they say they have to save money? Give me a break. I hate to say this because I am very much a very patriotic person. But our Country has gone to shit. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer because of down right GREED.

      • Hkinsey3

        Probably from the doctor who read the X-ray. With today’s technology he could have been in the international space station.

    • Syndi K

      Why is it when you have decent medical insurance,you will receive every test known to man. Life changes, now you have to set up a payment plan for your medical needs, you no longer have insurance. You faithfully pay your monthly payments, but now that’s no longer good enough you now are in collections! Who dictates my monthly payments, that were good to go for the last 5 years and now without insurance I am dog doo. I wish I were at an age that I could have a baby. I then would be able to receive badger care. Any rash, toothache, pimple, any reason that I could go to the Dr. I would go, because it’s FREE!! I’ve worked and paid into the system (?) since my first job at 13 as
      a babysitter and am still paying into the system (?) at age 55. I will continue to work because that’s the way my parents raised me, God bless their souls. But seriously, isn’t it time to stand up and say enough? Why can’t totally healthy young people work these days? Our elderly are struggling to get by, while their kids and grandchildren live off welfare and tax fraud. This idea of giving the children and their mommas and daddies
      free health care along with free food, free electric, free heat and a free ride through life is totally destroying our country. Is there anybody out there that understands me???

      • Jessica Burke

        If all these young people are on welfare and committing tax fraud, who is going to pay your social security when you retire? As well as all the millions of other baby boomers that are going to cause our economy to fall and prices to go up that your generation isn’t going to have to deal with.

      • Miau

        You are really dense if you think that having a job equals having good medical insurance. Not all policies are equal. I’ve had many from many employers over the course of my working, adult life. Young people do work. Many of them work very hard. You are only making yourself sound like a jaded, ignorant cynic when you talk like this.

    • Thinking of BK

      I have ER copays that I never paid, each is $75 but the total I owe comes up $1300, some may not come off my credit report until 2018. I have been unemployed for many years, and I am considering filing BK. I am aware that is one of the worst things to do, but will it help me if I pay them off? Or is the damaged already done? Should I work on paying other debts off, allow the medical bills to fall off, and focus on rebuilding my credit? Any help is appreciated

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Bankruptcy is not necessarily the worst thing you can do. I wrote about that misconception in this story: Six Dangerous Words If You Are In Debt. It would be very unusual for someone to file to eliminate just $1300 in debt, since it would cost several hundred dollars to do that. But it sounds like you may have other debts and if you can’t afford to pay them back, then it may be something you need to look into. I would recommend you do two things: 1. Talk with a reputable credit counseling agency to see if they can offer some assistance with your debt and 2. Talk with a bankruptcy attorney. (Medical debts typically can be discharged in bankruptcy.)

        As far as your credit reports are concerned, paying off the collection accounts won’t help your credit scores. But it may help you avoid being sued for the debt if it gets to that point. Another alternative is to negotiate a settlement of the collection accounts. That means you get the collector to agree to accept less than the full balance as payment in full. It won’t help (or hurt) your credit, but can help you put them behind you. I suggest you read: The 7 Biggest Questions About Debt Collections & Your Credit

        I don’t know your entire situation, but it sounds like it makes sense for you to first focus on a way to get your debts resolved then worry about your credit. In the meantime you may want to get your free Credit Report Card so you can get an idea of where you stand.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Bankruptcy may help you eliminate those debts so you no longer owe them but it won’t remove them from your credit reports. Truthfully, if they are reported as collection accounts then the damage is already done to your credit reports. Perhaps you can negotiate with the collectors to pay them for less than the full balance so you don’t have to worry about them contacting you anymore. This article may help: http://blog.credit.com/2012/06/will-settling-a-collection-account-hurt-my-credit/

        (And certainly talk with a bankruptcy attorney to find out how that may help you financially.)

    • Tim

      My girlfriend had to have her gallbladder removed and an ERCP, she had no insurance. The bill totaled over $70,000. They suggested that she file for assistance but was denied. The kicker is that they are sending her 12 different bills, she has been paying small amounts (approx. $20 on each a month) and thought that that $240 was adequate but they have reported her to collections and a lawyer contacted her and when she explained that she had been paying on them the lawyer responded, “maybe the hospital didn’t feel $20 dollars a month on a 70,000 debt was enough” and suggested she pay $100 a month on each. Her yearly salary is around 25,000. What can she do?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Tim – They aren’t required to accept what she can afford to pay and quite honestly paying $20 doesn’t do her any good. It extends the time they can collect (statute of limitations) and doesn’t make a dent in the debt. I’d suggest she do two things. 1. See if she can negotiate the bill down. (It’s very likely inflated. I wrote about that here: Big Hospital Bill? Negotiate! And if all she can truly afford is $20 a month, she really should at least talk with a bankruptcy attorney.

        You and she may be interested in an excellent and extensive piece about the problem that ran in Time magazine recently. Did you see that? Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Tim – She really needs to see a bankruptcy attorney. Paying $20 a month will get her nowhere and will simply extend the statute of limitations. With that large amount of money she is likely to get sued and may have to file then anyway.

        • kt

          Exact same scenario, and yes I filed Bankruptcy. It was horrible at first (2009). But for the most part we are back on our feet. I never intended to be one of “those: people, but life happens.

      • Lonerwithaboner420

        Maybe if she had gotten insurance in the first place, for the cost of around $100/month, she wouldnt have this problem.

        • sherry valiente

          What? Where do you get $100.00 a month? We pay 240.00 a month for my daughter for Obama care. What a joke. She can’t even find somebody to see her or fill her pharmacy.Biggest joke ever. And Tim you must have insurance through your employer or live on another planet. You don’t even have a clue about all of this.

    • Amanda K

      My husband had surgery 4 years ago. His employer mistakenly had his insurance as medicaid, leading to huge medical bills. This was worked out with the hospital, and the hospital was paid by our insurance, however, they had already sent the debt to collections.

      We’ve contacted the hospital, and they agree that the bill was paid. How do we let the collections agency know?

      Thank you for your help!

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Amanda – Your best strategy is to get the hospital to pull it back from collections. I explain how to do that in this article: Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Can you get something in writing from the hospital explaining that the bill was paid? If so, then I would suggest sending that with a certified letter to the collection agency explaining what happened and instructing them not to contact you again or report the debt to the credit reporting agencies. Keep excellent records of every piece of correspondence, notes from phone calls and copies of his credit reports in case you need to get a consumer law attorney involved.

    • mimi jones

      Oh….and i didnt get a dx from the hosp….i got it later from another visit to the Dr. During allergy seadon…with the same symptoms!

    • mimi jones

      I was paying on my 2plus k bill..went in for shrtness of breath…later found out it was gird..my doc tried to say i was making up stufg..did all these othet exams only to find a year later i had gird and allergies . I did not have ins. So some woman was sent to my hosp. Bed at shands jax to coach me on how to lie to get mdcd..my roomate came over after ovr mothering the whole thing, and told me ..who by the way worke for a major ins company! We talked about it. I told her these two women looked possessed!i was sickand in shock this happening, and was in no mood to stand against them at the time. So after leaving i couldnt do it.it was wrong! But i was afraid noone would care for if i said anything against them..i still think about that today! She would say “tell them you get a few dollars from friends and and thats ow you eat”.she ask a question..and when i wo had answer..she shakes her head side to side”nooo.”and correct me..it was a nighmare! I realize im responsible for my care . But these same people who tortured me, raked up over20k in unecessary bills wanted 500 dollars amo. From me! I fin got it to 250 a mo. Which was stillvalt for me..but i wanted to make goid on my debt..they waited over a year, sold my debt and threw it on my credit report..so i stop paying and am just p main upset..there goes my house! But ill waite 7yrs before i give them a dime!

    • JBS1971

      I was admitted to an ER in Alabama last July due to a severe bout of vertigo stemming from an inner ear infection. I have top-flight health coverage and pay all my medical and other bills on time and in full. Fast-forward six months later and I receive a letter from a debt collection agency claiming I owe $33.90 for “ER admin services.”

      I contacted the debt collection agency immediately to inquire what the amount is in relation to. After a deeply unpleasant conversation (I have since learned that I should not have called them at all), I established that the claim is indeed related to the ER visit last July. I then contacted the billings department of the hospital concerned and asked them why they had not billed me for what is, in essence, a paltry amount. The replied that they had in fact sent me a bill five times which is deeply troubling since I have received none of them. I verified with them that they have the correct address for me – they do, and when I said that I had not received any bill for the amount in question I was met with derision.

      I paid the bill with the hospital just to get that particular monkey off of my back, and they agreed to tell the debt collection agency to cease and desist. What bothers me is that either my mailman is deliberately withholding all mail from from the hospital or that the hospital is lying through its teeth. I have spoken with friends about this and a number of them, all good citizens with good credit ratings, have experienced similar problems with hospitals and debt collection agencies.

      Is it possible that the hospital, instead of properly billing me and thus giving me a reasonable opportunity to pay the bill normally, simply palmed it off to a debt collection agency. If so, is that legal (and if it is, why isn’t it?!!), and what can I do to prevent these kinds of shenanigans in the future?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I wish I had an answer for you. As I’ve written in some of my stories, consumers seem to have more rights with a $10 credit card billing error than they do with a $10000 medical bill! I’d first suggest you check your credit reports to make sure this isn’t showing up on them. If a collection account is listed, it is negative regardless of whether you paid it off later or not. Secondly, I’d suggest you complain about the hospital’s billing practices to anyone who will listen, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

        It doesn’t make sense to me that they would rather send it collections than collect from you. After all, they get less money that way. But I do wonder if someone isn’t doing their job. You may want to read our article: An Insider’s Guide to Fighting Medical Billing Mistakes.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I suspect they do not have adequate systems in place to prevent this type of problem. Most medical billing clerks are overworked and underpaid, as one former billing clerk explained in this article: http://blog.credit.com/2012/09/an-insiders-guide-to-fighting-medical-billing-mistakes/

        Make sure you check your credit reports to make sure this is removed. If not, contact a consumer law attorney. At a minimum, file a complaint with your state attorney general’s office.

    • philabustah

      Has anyone considered that what all the above generally means is someone can make up a bill when they’re good and ready and you have to pay it? It can be totally baseless, totally, but how can you disprove it? It happened two years ago. you wouldn’t have any paperwork since there shouldn’t be any. But a company, medical facility, whatever, creates the paper out of thin air and turns it over to a collection agency and tough luck? Really? We can’t wait for politicians to do anything about this. credit bureaus and collection agencies and the companies that use them are all customers of each other. It’s a rigged nasty game of extortion. It’s no different than the mafia. Tell me how it is.

    • Fiantella


      An orthodontist took my dental insurance card when I visited his office, and assured me his services were covered under my plan, when it as not true. That’s deceiving practices. It was only $60, but I didn’t want to encourage this unethical practices by paying. They should have confirmed by phone as every other facility does.

      Although, he did send me several bills, he did not let me know he would turn the bill to a collection agency. I have disputed in many ways, but still wounded up in my credit report. This happened 3 years ago in Kansas, but I now live in TX, since April, 2012. This collection agency has sent me several letters, but lately, they started to send me what it looks like a fake judgement with a much higher amount, signed by an attorney; however it is their same address. I never received any court citation or similar, although they have always known my location. They have even sent me countless letters to my known addresses; that’s what I think it is a fake judgment. And it does not have the pertinent stamps.

      I sent them a Cease and Desist letter, but they did not respond, instead they sent me another fake judgment.

      For what I read this is illegal (federal fraud) for submitting false documents to get money.

      A couple of weeks ago, I contacted Equifax to delete that debt from my credit report, but they responded it is my debt. Although, I forgot to mention the CA is sending me false judgments.

      Equifax answer says that I can appeal, but I don’t know if I should do it mentioning the fake judgments, or if I should just leave it alone for another 3 years until it becomes Time-barred, and then contact Equifax again to request deletion.

      At this point I feel I should not bother paying, since it won’t be removed from my report.

      If I contact the orthodontist, and offer to pay the $60, and he agrees to remove it from the CA, does this agency have to remove it from my credit report, and consequently be out of my credit report, or is it going to stay in my credit report, anyway?

      I would appreciate a quick input on this.

      Thanks in advance.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Fiantella – Unfortunately this is one of those situations where you are going to end up spending a lot more time (and possibly money) clearing this up that the dispute was probably worth.

        The first thing you need to do is to contact the court where this judgment was supposedly filed to find out whether it is legit. (Your credit reports should also list the judgment if one has been entered. Check your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.) If you find out it is a fake then you need to talk with a consumer law attorney asap. That could be deceptive collection practices which are illegal. Let us know.

    • jerry

      I’m accruing hospital emergency bills, the uncovered 20% part that Medicare part B doesn’t pay. Hospital reduced from $900 to $300 as “assistance”, but I am already at my end-point being on only ssdi and making $5 payments to 3 doctors and 1 EMT. Question is, whence such goes to collections, will this affect the future ownership of my mobilehome (2/3rds payed off, 3-1/2yrs ’til fully paid). Would they put a lien on it? How does that work, as just tagging on 2 more $177 payments at that time would be no big deal, or is there worse ramifications? Another hospital wants $1000 after Medicare insurance and offers no assistance. Hope someone can elucidate.

    • Lenka

      My sister had gone to emergency and delivered her baby.
      Since she has no insurance the financial clerk told them that if they pay up (not sure the amount) $ 2500 on spot, as in before they leave the hospital it will be their total hospital bill, but if they leave they will be asked to pay in ful the whole caa $6000. So they payd and left.
      Now the hospital sent them a bill and the financial person does not return any of the calls. They just keep resenting the bill. And advice how to deal with this situation?
      I addicted her to write them registered letter explaining things but since she does not have any of the advisors statement in writing, I worry that she will be forced to pay up. Please help!

      • Lenka

        I apologize for the typos my iPad’s auto corrections are out of place.

        • Gerri Detweiler

          I don’t have a definitive answer for your sister. As you say this could be a case of her word against theirs. But most hospitals do have financial assistance programs for those lacking insurance. She needs to ask for a written copy of this policy and find out what she needs to do to make sure they provide that assistance. If she can’t get anywhere with that, here’s an article that explains how to dispute medical bills: http://blog.credit.com/2012/10/the-ultimate-guide-to-solving-your-medical-bill-problems/

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Lenka –

        This is a tough one, especially since it will be her word against theirs. But I agree that she should start by sending them a certified letter stating what the agreement was and telling them that she wants confirmation in writing that they will not be trying to collect the balance. If she doesn’t get that in a timely way, then she may want to escalate her complaint. You’ll find some suggestions in this other article I wrote, How to Fix Your Medical Billing Problems. Let us know what happens!

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    • KN

      My wife and I visited the doctor’s office for pregnancy test. The doctor’s office drew her blood and two days later they asked me to get my blood checked also. I went to the same doctor’s office and gave my blood.

      Four weeks later, I got a bill for $500.00 and my wife had no bill. When I questioned the bill, the doctor’s office said that my bill was sent to a different lab as I came in on a certain day of the week. This was the only reason. There was no medical reason. When I spoke to the manager, she said this bill should not go to collections without her notice and technically I should not have received a bill. Later, she phoned me to tell that the laboratory is not answering her calls and also they stopped doing business with this lab for other issues they are having with many other patients.

      Turns out this bill did go to collections and affected my credit report by dropping my score 100 points.
      Is there any thing I can do at this point?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I am moving this to the Credit.com forums so we can go into more detail. Can you answer the questions I have posted there?

    • Cass

      I’m currently “in a fight” with a hospital because I fell on their property in July and injured my ankle, and the discharge receptionist didnt take my insurance when I offered it. He told me instead to bring my bills (ER, Radiology, and contract ER physicians) to the finance dept to have their insurance cover it (he wasn’t the only one to tell me this, just the one who actively turned down my insurance).

      Their risk management dept later called me to tell me they’d decided they weren’t responsible, by which point I no longer had insurance (it expired at the end of August). This leaves me with over $1000 in bills to pay with no insurance (about $350 each), and at least two of the three companies have turned them over to collections agencies.

      I have big issues with paying the bills, since I was told I wouldn’t be responsible (and would have been happy to turn my insurance info over), but my bigger problem is that while I’ve been trying to sort this out, they’ve decided that going after my credit is the way to solve the problem.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        That sounds absolutely crazy. Have you talked with a consumer law attorney?

    • Lamont

      Recently was in hospital and racked up at least $18,000 in medical bills and no insurance. Now I’m being harassed by collections who want $200 a month that I can’t afford. Is it possible I can negotiate lower payment? And if I ignore the bill could they garnish my wages?

    • kel

      We owed over $6000 in co-insurance for breast cancer treatment – took out a loan to start paying it off as the hospital sent them all to collections even though we were paying a small amount – we missed 1 payment. Now we have a $2900 bill from them for a procedure my husband had – we were paying $100 a month, got $300 of it paid and they demanded payment in full — and just got the collections notice exactly 90 days later. Already two days later the phone has started ringing.
      At this point, we have so much medical debt that I just cannot afford to pay any more on this debt right now and my credit is already destroyed because of it – so it’s going to have to sit. I’m afraid of being sued by the hospital for it. It’s too bad for the hospital – I would have kept on trying to send them what I could on it – now they will get pennies on the dollar since the agency gets paid a portion of the bill – and I have no motivation to pay it as my credit is already beyond dinged after being perfect for 17 years.
      Does it occur to anyone else that collection agencies are profiting HUGELY on people’s medical treatments? It’s one thing of a hospital is making money – but there are people in debt collection that aren’t even part of the facilities that are lining their pockets in a HUGE way because of the lack of healthcare options in this country . We pay over $400 a month for our medical insurance and it doesn’t cover crap.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        It is such a huge problem for so many people like yourselves. I’d encourage you to make sure your bills were all correct – a large percentage of hospital bills have errors in favor of the hospital.

    • Teresa

      I recently tried to get a loan to pay for my father’s funeral. I was denied because there were medical collections on my report. When I was given this info, it only has some sort of account numbers and amounts. How do I go about finding out WHERE these medical collections are from? I was sick at one time and used many different medical facilities for tests, etc. I was certain I had paid them all but now I am seeing this and have no way of knowing the source of the collection or who to contact.

      • Gerri Detweiler


        We are happy to help you with this question. Can you post it in the Credit.com forums? We have several moderators with experience dealing with collection accounts and that would be a great place for you to get help. This thread about collection accounts would be a great place for you to post it.

        Let me know if you have any problems posting it there.

    • Linda

      My brother owed about $11,000 and now it’s more since it’s been sent to collections. Initially, the insurance company approved of the procedure, however, the procedure was a few days after his birthday, so he was technically not covered. He is young, and I don’t know how to advise him. He seems to want to do nothing about it.

      • http://www.credit.com Gerri

        I am sure you have warned him that ignoring it won’t make it go away. Perhaps you can send him the link to this article: The Ultimate Guide to Solving Your Medical Billing Problems. so he can take a look at his options. If this is a hospital bill, he may be eligible for financial assistance – but he needs to find out right away. If not, he may be able to negotiate the bill to a more reasonable amount that he can afford to pay. If he doesn’t figure something out he will probably hear from collection agencies (for several years depending on the the state statute of limitations) and he may be sued which could allow the collector to garnish his wages or go after his bank accounts (again, depending on state laws).

        • Linda

          What are your options after collection agencies? Is it too late to negotiate with the hospital? He was under the impression everything was covered. Otherwise, he would’ve opted to not have surgery.

          • Gerri Detweiler

            Linda – If he ignores these bills he is at risk of being sued. He is probably responsible for knowing the terms of his health insurance policy and the fact that he had the surgery after the coverage expired isn’t really the provider’s fault. If he can’t pay these bills, he can either try to negotiate a settlement or consider bankruptcy.

    • TJ

      Gerri, can you tell me where to go to fight a claim that the hospital sent my insurance company which was for $22,223 and the insurance company INCREASED the claim to $27,681, of which I had to pay 20%. The hospital told me the average price of this surgery was $15,000 – $18,000, so you can imagine my surprise when the insurance company paid MORE than the claim and upped the amount to $27,681. I’ve never heard of a claim being increase by the inurance company where they end up paying MORE than they were billed. Seems crazy especially since increasing the claim ended up costing me a lot more money.

      A little background info….I had paid $7600 to the hospital (in advance of my surgery) for pre and post surgery costs that my insurance did not cover, so I thought I would get money back from what I initially paid out…none back to be as the hospital kept all of it. The first claim they sent to the Ins co came back they they would not accept anything – so it was for $00. then they came back the second time they received the claim and said they would accept $700 or $900 (I would have to look it up) and I would owe 20% of that…which again I knew was incorrect. So then either the 3 or 4th time they got the claim is when they acknowledged the $27,000. I know they were playing with the codes. I tried calling on multiple occassions and sent emails also but was always told it was correct. I would just like to get more verification that it is in fact correct or not. Where do I go to get help as both the Hospital and insurance company wouldn’t do anything more for me.

      Also, this was 2.5 years ago…but I just spoke with someone who told me I can still fight it. I live in Iowa.


      • Tammy

        I submitted this question and never received a response. Wondering if I could get any further info on this question. I’ve noticed most questions are answered but unfortunately mine was not 🙁

        Please and thanks!

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Tammy – Sorry I didn’t see this earlier. We are getting so many questions! I admit I am completely flummoxed by this one. I wrote a previous story about how to dispute medical bills and hope you can find some other places to appeal to there. In particular, I’d go after the hospital since they inflated the bill.

          • Tammy

            Thanks Gerri. Yeah this is a weird one. I’m sorry I didn’t explain it very well in my previous comment. Basically I believe the insurance company is the one I need to go after. Even if the hospital said the cost of the surgery would be $15,000 to $18,000, they ended up billing the ins. co. the $22,223 – which didn’t seem to be extremely off, especially considering I was in the hospital for 1 day longer than they had anticipated. From my past experience the claim is generally higher than you think it should be (the hosp elevates it knowing the ins. co will pay less), and then the insur. co. normally adjusts the claim based on “the contract” between the hosp and the ins. co., and therefore they end up paying less than the claim. So in my situation the insur co. adjusted the claim to be MORE than what the hospital billed them and I believe they have an incorrect code. But no one at the insur co will tell me anything other than “the claim was correctly paid”. Last the hospital told me was the insur co. had used a code which stated I had an implant – my surgery was stomach surgery, and I did not receive an implant. I have an email from the hospital saying they know the insurance company paid incorrectly, but after so many attempts to correct it, they just gave up. They had been over paid and why should they fight with the ins co. on my behalf??? So I need to know how I can get thru the BS at the insur. co and find out what they actually paid for and why they increased the amount they paid from the original claim. My EOB doesn’t identify anything unusual. Thanks for your help!

            • Gerri Detweiler

              Ahhh… I see what you are saying. If you can’t get it fixed yourself then you may have to bring in a company like Copatient.com. They do charge based on the money you save, but it might be cheaper than getting stuck with that amount. Since it’s an insurance billing issue, try your state department of insurance…??

    • Eddie

      I woke up one morning with excruciating pain in an area that every male dreads..I went waqs rushed to the hospital shortly after awaking due to the severity of the pain. The staff thought I had a kidney stone for the first 7hrs that i was admitted, but as time went by, and my “kidney stone” never passed, they ruled that out. They then tell me I have testicular torsion and schedule me surgery. Well, to turn this book of a story into a short story, this “three day recovery” incident ended up being a 2-week stay in the hospital, with the most DISRESPECTFUL nurses I have ever encountered. I was even sent home after a week(with no pain meds) with a haematoma(blood clot). I returned to the ER the very next day, when my doctor said “oh, it must be the haematoma.” I had no clue I was sent home with a blood clot. And due to the long hospital visit, large amounts of pain killers, and lack of appetite, I became anemic, constipated, and suffered mild muscle atrophy. I have insurance, but what good is insurance if the bill is so extraordinary large that the percent you owe is still too much?

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

        Eddie – You may also want to read my article about How to Fix Your Medical Bill Problems which includes information on how to complain about a medical provider or hospital. In particular you may want to file a complaint with The Joint Commission since you believe the care you received compromised your safety.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        It is a valid question. One thing you should make sure you so is to carefully scrutinize all the hospital bills. There is a good chance they are inflated and/or that there are mistakes you’ll wind up paying for. I wrote more about that in this article: http://blog.credit.com/2012/02/big-hospital-bill-negotiate/

    • Gary

      The scenario under Myth 2 happened to me. I took a medical service less than 2 months ago but never ever received the bill for it. It might have been because they were missing my apartment number in my address on file. But, regardless I never received the bill.

      And now a week ago I suddenly received a letter from the collection agency asking me to pay the bill with fees/interest charged on the amount as well.

      The thing is that I had a medical emergency and I paid the bills for everything else (emergency room, lab tests, doctorm etc.) well before their due-date of 11-nov 2012 which is yet 11 days away from today. But this one bill which I never received, apparently had a due date of much earlier (god knows when) and I suddenly get contacted by the CA asking me to pay the bill and interest on it.

      Btw, this is the first time I’ve ever had a CA contact me. I’ve always paid all my bills, dues, etc. on time. Even on this incident, all the other bills I paid had a much higher amount than this one. There is absolutely no reason I would have avoided paying this bill IF I had received the bill on time.

      I called the CA and told them all this but they were **extremely** rude and said it was totally my fault for not paying the bill and that they were going to make a bad report on my credit history if I didnt pay within 12 days.

      So I paid the entire amount the CA asked me just to make sure my credit history doesnt take a beating. But I’m extremely infuriated – anything I can do about this? I expect at the least, a sincere apology and a refund of the few extra bucks I paid in fees/interest.

      Would appreciate your response…thanks.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I’m glad you were able to keep this from damaging your credit, but how incredibly frustrating! There’s no need for any of this – the medical provider received less money because someone wasn’t doing their job properly – and the collection agency didn’t have to rude about it. What if the same thing happened to that collector?

        And where does 12 days come in? Who made that up? I doesn’t give you much time to investigate or try to dispute it with the provider if it were an erroneous charge.

        Here’s what I would do in your shoes. I would file a complaint about the collection agency with the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (consumerfinance.gov), your state Attorney General and the BBB. Go on record about this collection agency’s practices. But I would also file a complaint with the medical provider. They are the ones that placed this for collection without notifying you first, so it sounds like someone in their billing department isn’t doing their job. It sounds like it should have never gone to collections in the first place.

        You can also talk with a consumer law attorney to find out whether the collection agency’s threats to ruin your credit if you didn’t pay right away were legal – sounds iffy to me. If they were acting illegally, the would have to pay the attorney’s fees so it shouldn’t cost you anything.

    • Najib

      My mom fell off the stool and hit her head at the edge part of the wall. There was a bump but looked like something internal which made me worried and took her to hospital. She had no insurance and she did not want to go but I really wanted her to be seen by someone. After reaching to ER we waited about 4 hours before we entered a room, and then we were notified that the doctor will not be able to see you for another 4 to 5 hours because we have only one doctor who is working with other patients. My mom and I thought this was ridiculous and we told them we are leaving, a doctor came and said there is nothing much we can do at the moment but if she starts feeling dizzy or something, please bring her back. So we left and couple days ago we got the bill of 440, I called the billing department and they said they will check it and let us know. They contacted me back and said it was their mistake and we owe only 136 which was still not fair due to we were in the ER room for no more than 5 minutes and as soon as we found out that we will see doctor after hours we left. They are saying we still owe them for the usage of their facility. Is there a way for me to dispute this charge? I will try to get them mail me the itemized charges and see more information, but I have submitted a survey and I had nothing pleasant to say about that hospital.

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri


        I doesn’t seem right though not uncommon for this type of thing to happen. All I can suggest is that you really be the “squeaky wheel” here and try to get someone to agree to write it off. Can you try to make an appointment with someone in their billing office so you can discuss it in person? You may have better luck that way. I suggest you read my article, How to Fix Your Medical Bill Problems for more tips on how to complain effectively.

        Just make sure that you get something in writing if they agree to drop the balance to zero. And think twice about refusing to pay it and letting it go to collections. If it winds up as a collection account, it will significantly hurt your mother’s credit scores.

        • Najib

          Thank you for your reply Gerri,

          The person I was talking to did not budge on her costs and talked about if we did not pay by the end of the month the bill will go to collections, so even though I wanted to dispute it, I was running out of time and I just paid it over the phone and should be receiving the receipt by mail. My mom said she will not be going to this hospital again even if it’s only 5 minutes away from her almost dead body, I feel the same way.

          • Gerri Detweiler

            It’s probably not worth ruining her credit over that small amount. But you can still complain! You can file a complaint as I outlined in the article above and at least let them know why they’ve lost a patient in the future.

    • Cami

      I accumulated alot of medical bills between 2005 and 2007. I was overwhelmed and most of them got turned in on my credit and I have been ruined since- However, there was light at the end of the tunnel and all the sudden I started receiving bills from a collection agency on bills from that period… Some had already been on my credit report and now are being threatened to be put on again. Can they do this on bills that are this old?? I thought that I was almost finally FREE!! My husband and I have had to survive without credit since then and I thought that it was almost over as most have been on my credit for 6 years and will be coming off soon. And now this. I don’t think that I can go through another 7 years with a ruined credit score for things from 2005 to 2007. That just doesn’t seem right!!! Can they really do this?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Hi Cami –

        I have some good news for you. Collectors are not allowed to report collection accounts as new accounts to drag out the reporting period. Collection accounts may be reported for 7 years and 6 months from the date you first fell behind with the original lender – regardless of whether you paid them or not. If a collection agency is threatening to put a debt older than that on your credit report then it is likely breaking the law and you need to talk with a consumer law attorney asap.

        If the original account went delinquent less than 7.5 years ago then the collection agency may report it but it still must come off after that time period. If a collection agency is threatening to put it back on your credit and hurt your credit for years to come please talk with a consumer law attorney. Read my article 11 Ways a Debt Collector May Be Breaking The Law.

        My understanding is that the statute of limitations, which is something different and addresses whether a collector can successfully sue you for the debt, is 3 years for most consumer debts in North Carolina. I am not an attorney so please don’t take that as legal advice. But if you confirm the statute of limitations has expired you can tell the debt collector not to contact you again, noting that the statute of limitations has expired. They can’t contact you again except to tell you they are taking legal action against you – which would be kind of crazy if the statute of limitations had expired!

    • steph

      I have a question about a 25,000+ medical bill my mom received. First of all she has epilepsy and is mentally not all there in the head. She can fend for herself, understand legal words, think for herself, basically she has the mind of a child, and the collection companies are refusing to talk to me even though i have power of attorney. She has a limited PP0 and this only covered part of her hospital bill, the rest is now 25,000+. She does not work, does not own any assets except an annuity left from her deceased husband and for the clothes she is wearing, she lives with me so I feed her and buy all her medications, etc for her with her social security money she receives plus whatever little money is left goes to pay for our apartment rent. The social security is the widow’s benifit since her spouse passed away 2 years ago. So no medi-cal/medi-care yet for 4 more years when she turns 65. If her only assets are those two items can the collections sue her for those or would those be exempt in the state of california? I dont want her to lose the only things she has to support her or both of us would be on the street.

      • Michael Schreiber

        Steph — would you share your story with our community at http://forum.credit.com ?
        We think it would generate a pretty interesting discussion that both our experts and readers could provide some insight into.

    • http://ccomwp.wpengine.com elena

      I have a question regarding my dental bill. I have a delta premium. I am a foreigner and not familiar that much with a medical billing. I was visiting one dentist on in my network and he did not charge me anything for his visits. Then I moved and got another dentist, I specified that I want only procedures done covered by my insurance. The dentist did not charge me anything extra since May 2011, and in October 2011 I came for a regular cleaning and I was told I have a balance of $800. I did not received the bills wich they claimed they have been sending me and I was visited the office several times since then-nobody mentioned to me that I have any balance otherwise I would stop using this office and found a cheaper one.
      How I can avoid of paying the bill?

    • Andrea

      I received a bill from the hospital for $1551 for an ER visit in February. I requested a financial aid assistance form but its asking me for my bank account number and my debit card number. I am a bit worried if I give them that information then they’ll charge me without my consent. What should I do?

      • Gerri Detweiler


        We have moved this discussion to the Credit.com forums and you’ll find my reply there.

    • Ann

      Our daughter had knee surgery in February, most of which was covered by our insurance.
      The rest we have been paying on every month, on time, and I got a call today saying if we didn’t increase our payments and pay it off within 10 months they’re sending us to collection. We have other medical bills we are paying on and cannot afford to increase our payments (which at what we’ve been paying would be paid off in 20 months). I can understand them sending us to a collection agency if we had not been paying anything, but we have been. It just disgusts me. I think we will be looking for a different doctor if we need anything like this again.

      • http://www.credit.com Gerri

        How frustrating! There is a good chance the doctor has no idea what the billing office is doing – or that he/she is about to lose a patient over their aggressive tactics. While it’s true they aren’t required to finance your unpaid balance, most offices will work with patients who are making a reasonable effort. I wrote about the disconnect between billing and patient care in this article: An Insider’s Guide to the Insane World of Medical Bills.

        I’d suggest you send a certified letter to the doctor’s office – not the billing office. Politely state your situation and ask them to continue your current payments. Emphasize that you are making the payments that were agreed upon. It’s worth a try.

        You may also want to look into whether you can get a personal loan to pay off your balance. That could help you avoid a collection account – and the additional pressure and credit damage that will create for you.

        Let us know how this turns out!

    • Jennifer

      I, like many of you, recently found out about a $3,500 medical bill that had been turned into collections in 2008. I didn’t even know about it until I pulled my credit report a few weeks ago. Today I called the collections agency to see if they would work with and take a lesser payment and settle the account. They would not. I offered $2,000 cash but all he would do is credit it toward my account with the remaining balance being 1500 plus interest which apparently is for about another thousand. Don’t they usually work with people? I’ve settled a couple of other things for less than what I owed but they weren’t medical. Any suggestions on getting these people to work with me?? We were recently preapproved for a home loan but our gal at the bank wants this taken care of first. And I can’t afford 4700!!! Help!

      • Gerri Detweiler

        This question has been moved to the Credit.com forums. Please join in the conversation there!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      JC – Great to hear your success story! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your advice.

    • JC

      This just happened to my mother. On an out of state vacation, she ended up in the ER. She called her insurance, everything was approved, no problem so she went.

      Now, 8 months later she receives a notice from Experian that a derogatory account had been placed on her credit. Apparently, the radiologist bill from her er visit. Health insurance received bill, sent it back to billing asking for the correct place of service code. Billing service, claiming to my mom to be too busy, simply ignores the request. They sent mail to my Mom’s vacation address which came back undeliverable. They had her correct home phone number as well as all of her insurance information. They sent it to collections. When asked why they made no attempt to contact her with the phone number or respond to the insurance, they stated they were too busy and assumed the phone wouldn’t work so didn’t bother. Yes, they said that. So basically, your credit has been ruined because I am busy, most likely lazy. They had accurate contact information and didn’t use it.

      She was just getting ready to buy a house, no not making that up, and now she has this on her credit. Her health insurance paid the same day my mom found out what was going on and called them. Seriously, had someone, anyone called her it would have been paid. Not to mention that the hospital and er doctors bills were also processed through the same central billing agency. All of those bills were paid in full immediately and they knew it. Still sent her to collection. And even with immediate payment in full, refuse to remove it from her credit, because “that’s how we do things”.

      Any suggestions to help her would be appreciated. We have already sent a letter to Experian detailing what happened and asking to have it removed, they told her to do it and they’d review it but I’m not holding my breath. I have also had her send a letter to the Radiology Dept directly, not the billing department who was simply unwilling to help, detailing what their billing has done and stating we plan to contact the Attorney General for assistance if this is not removed. I have no idea if they can even help.

      She had worked for years to correct issues that arose when my Dad passed and her score was finally at the point she could get herself approved for loans again. She is literally going to have to move out of her home because the landlord needs to sell and she now likely can’t get approved. I just am at a loss for words. BTW, this was over $54.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        JC –

        What a headache! I just wrote about this problem in a new story where I interviewed someone who was in medical billing for fourteen years. You may want to read that story, An Insider’s Guide to Fighting Medical Billing Mistakes. One thing that concerns me is that the radiologist may be trying to “balance bill” your mother which could be a violation of its contract with your insurance company. I’d encourage you to call your insurance company and enlist their help. You are their customer. (Make sure the person you are talking with understands the situation and the contractual relationship between the radiologist and the insurance company. If necessary, ask for a supervisor.) Let me know what happens OK?

        • JC

          The $54 was the whole bill, insurance had not paid anything. It was just for the reading of the xray, which is why it isn’t very much.

          My mom immediately contacted the insurance company when she found out it was a medical bill. When they found out the doctor decided to send her collection instead of recoding the bill appropriately, they immediately paid the $54 bill in full. My mom had no personal responsibility for this claim after the insurance payment. It was a preapproved service with no deductible or copay. The insurance company and the doctor simply could not work together to process the payment and my mom got sent to collections without any knowledge of what was going on. All the provider had to do was type the number 23 in the place of service field on the bill and it would have been paid. They simply refused to do it even though the bill was in fact coded wrong.

          The bill was immediately paid in full but the billing department and the collection agency are refusing to remove it from her credit even while admitting they had valid contact information they didn’t bother to use. “We’re too busy” is apparently good enough reason for them to ruin my 63 year old mother’s credit until she is 70.

          Crossing our fingers on the letters that just went out to the actual doctor and Experian. BBB, Attorney General and her state Senator will receive letters next week if she doesn’t receive any response. If none of that works, I can say I’ve lost all faith in people as a whole. Who in their right mind does this to others? Sad, very sad.

          I will repost if we actually have any luck.

          • Gerri Detweiler

            This is just plain wrong (as in unfair). I would also suggest you share your story with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (consumerfinance.gov) which is looking into these issues.

            • JC

              The day after sending a threatening letter to the actual Radiology Department, not the
              billing department, my mother received a call from the head of the department who
              apologized and stated that they had already called the collection agency and pulled the account from her credit. They are sending her a letter detailing their decision so she
              has proof.

              We wrote a factual but unkind letter and threatened them with the Attorney General. They did not help when my mother was trying to be nice and get it worked out. She told me she was “scared” sending the notes thinking they would respond even worse than they already had, but I made her send them. It did work. Always be nice first, but don’t be afraid to stick it to them!

              My mom did talk to her state Attorney General also, I can say if you are having these issues, the AG had not so kind words for all creditors and absolutely would have helped her if it was not resolved, so keep that option in mind when dealing with these issues.


    • AJ

      Hello. My Father was driving his ATV with my husband on the back of it last month when they wrecked and went down a hill. My husband was life flighted, and had to have surgery, etc. but my father suffered no serious injuries. My father had ATV insurance, and filed a claim. My husband has insurance through work, which should pay 80% of medical bills, AND he is on medicaid. The ATV insurance company told us to fax the first bill we received ($36,000) and they would pay us the $25,000 directly to cover deductibles, and pay for the lost wages since my husband couldn’t work for a month after the accident. If this $25,000 goes directly to us, and our insurance companies (first private, then medicaid) pay the full amount of my husband’s medical bills (estimated to be around $100,000), will we be sued?? Will my father be sued by medicaid or our health insurance? Or will we simply have our medical bills paid, and get to keep the $25,000? Thank you for your help.

    • Crystal

      I went to the doctor 5 years ago for a cold with my husband at the time who also had a cold and went to the same doctor. We both paid our copay and got out at the same time. His was coded correctly mine was coded as a outpatient procedure. Which it was not I didnt even get medication at the visit. But shortly after I received a bill in the mail and sent it to my insurane (HealthNet) and they said it was taken care of… They have said this every year for the past 5 years that I have been dealing with a collection agency that calls once a year and wants payment. the bill started as a $219 bill and has now doubled. Every time I get a call I call the insurance company that I have not been with in 5 years and they say they will take care of it and they dont. What should I do? I can’t pay the bill, I couldn’t pay it when it was 200 and I can not pay it now that it is 400! I dont think I should have to pay for a miss coding error!

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri


        It really sounds like you are stuck in the middle here! The insurance company should be helping you here, since they said they have taken care of it and since it sounds like it was their responsibility.

        Have you specifically asked your insurance company for an updated Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statement for that visit? The EOB should show what amount they paid the provider and what amount you were responsible for. If you have asked them for it, let me know what they said.

    • melissa

      I tookmy son to the pediatrician to get his shots for middle school .i received a bill for over $600.00 for treatment he did not recieve (bloodwork and urine sample,also well baby check up ..let me tell u he was 11years old and my insurance said they only do well baby check up for infants when i phoned the docters office they told me they had the results of the test in his file and when asked about the well baby check up they just said it was the code they used,they where very rude to me and would not say anything except it was handed over to collections what can i do do get this off my credit..please help

    • Therese

      I am just finishing with stage 3 cancer treatment. I have Blue Shield PPO with a $7500 deductible each year, which I racked up by January 15th of this calendar year.
      I have been making payments to my oncologist on a $600 bill to him. The balance is currently $500. When I visited yesterday, I was informed the $20-40/month I had been paying was not adequate and needed to pay the balance in 30 days or find a new dr. This just happened to coincide with the end of my expensive treatments he would no longer be able to bill my insurance company for. Can he now send this to collections?

      • http://www.credit.com Gerri

        Therese –

        I am so glad to hear your cancer treatments are working. But I can understand why you are so stressed out about these medical bills.

        The doctor’s office has every right to turn your account over to collections if you can’t pay the bill in full. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.

        My first question is an obvious one, but I need to ask it: is there any way you can come up with the money to pay it off from another source? Do you have a credit card you can charge the balance to? Or a relative who could lend you that amount so you can pay it off? If your credit is good, can you get a personal loan to pay it off?

        If not, then my best suggestion is that you write the doctor a letter explaining your situation. Thank them for the treatments that you’ve received but explain that you’ve incurred large bills and are doing your best to pay them off as quickly as possible. Offer them the largest possible monthly payment you can stick with each month. Can you find a way to increase your payments to $75 or $100 a month for example? If you can only pay $50 a month then clearly explain why, and let them know you are doing everything you can to pay off the balance.

        Remind them that turning your balance over to collections will severely hurt your credit and leave you with that damage to your credit rating long after your cancer treatments are over.

        I understand that physicians don’t want to finance patient’s care, but presumably the oncologist has received payment for the majority of your treatment from your insurance company and hopefully will be willing to work with you on this small balance.

        (You may also want to contact your elected officials in Washington about the Medical Debt Responsibility Act.)

    • Anna

      I am so sad, desperate,angry! with this unmorally greedy & rapacious health system, where all we are vulnerable to fall into these traps, when we are in the most vulnerable moment of our lifes, when we need that health attention…1 month ago I had to go to ER room because i had abdominal pain and fever, The ER Dr who attended me diagnosed that I have a huge ovarian cyst, they runned a CT scan, Ultrasound, & injected 1 strong analgesic thru IV that helped me to feel Good again and Potassium, that’s it, they couldn’t find reason for my fever until next day when a dr. discovered that I had throat infection , but before that, they runned blood tests, X rays, before just checking my mouth!!, another DR a Gynecologist, who saw me in ER, he said my condition was NOT life threatening, that I need surgery, but it is elective, to be planned later not as an emergency right away, He wanted to released me from ER, but we were told that the ER DR who saw me first had left to his home that night, and that there was not another doctor to sign my release, but only him, and that I had to stay in the hospital until next day when he came back to sign my release, I said no, and they went out to check with their supervisor to see if I could be released anyway, so between the gos and the comes, I finished in the hospital room with only a saline IV, without any medication at all, I did not have need of special care or medication, I had no surgery neither, I had no more pain, I didn’t have any problem anymore, my cyst stopped hurting in ER, and I jsut asked a tylenol for my headache, that was all….so I stayed 1 night and at 11am next day I was finally released, just because paperwork ..it was just an administrative hassle I thought…BUT 2 days ago..I received a Medical bill from SHARP, Where for that stay they charged 21,000 dls!!!, and the amount that I am responsible is $ 3,200 dls!! this have come from the blue, without any planification at all…for a ER attention to calm my pain and detect my medical problem….still I need surgery…and for my bad luck the following week after this my husbad was laid off for downsizing also, and have lost his Medical coverage…So I ended up with a debt of $ 3,200 dls, with a medical condition that still requires surgery , No medical Insurance to cover it (my husband 1 week later was laid off due to downsizing), and half less of the income in home, HOw in the hell am I going to pay this rip off?!!…On the itemized medical bill, what attracts my attention of the extreme abuse is that they charged:
      >6706.00 dls for a ct scan,>143.00 dls for an urine pregnancy test in a market it costs 11dls!… >Pelvic ultrasound 844 dls! in Mexico I have had many of them for 50 dls at most! with the same machine and same quality…>4 bags of NS (normal saline) 1000ml $850.00dls is this the IV water? I didn’t knwo that Salt with water were so expensive!!! & I remember having only 2 bags of saline solution why they charged 4??? I would be dead by now or with a pulmonary emphysema if I would have had 4 bags of liquid by IV in so short period of time!…
      It is just abusive, ridiculous, obsene unmoral how the medical field is charging for things that do not cost that much, is like 10 times their value….and I feel helpless..What rights do we have as citizens to defend ourselves from this abuse?, the costs that these people are charging are simply out of any descent logic…I have been surviving from bankrupcy I don’t even wanted to talk about, but now I have falled in disgrace, in the claws of these thieves, I am seeing the bankrupcy coming.. I paid 580 dls x 1 month to continue with Cobra in case I needed Emergency care again, but I have been told that the previous insurance record is not going to continue that I have to start with a new 3500dls of deductible limit for my new medical activities…what type of benefit is that!!!?? they are a bunch of complices….I will have my surgery in Mexico definitively for 2800 dls, and no hidden costs…this has been the worst experience in my life…But has anyone successfully disputed medical bills??? Please give us suggestions of what to do

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Hi Anna,

        It is shocking to get these kinds of bills isn’t it? I wrote a story about negotiating medical bills. Also, if it is a non-profit hospital you may have rights under the Affordable Care Act. It also sounds like you may be eligible for financial assistance so ask the hospital for a written copy of its financial policy and be persistent in trying to work something out. Here is another article about medical bill negotiation that may help.

    • Oscarq

      Since I have no medical insurance (even that I work for an employer) and I suffer from a chronic illness, I have to pay out of my pocket for doctor’s visits and prescriptions. Once in a while I am too sick that I had to go to the emergency room (the only place where I can be thoroughly examined without paying immediately), then I get medical bills that I cannot pay at once but in small payments. So I have a few of those collection bills in my credit report. I have been trying to pay the most I can but my credit score never improves to allow me to qualify for a home mortgage. I just recently tried to get a prequalification for an FHA loan and I was told to pay $11,000 in bad debt reported on my credit report. I have no $11,000 on my hands. I have been waiting for two years to see my credit improved but nothing happens because I have no cash to pay the old debt. Any solutions?

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri


        I don’t have an easy answer for you, but one thought that comes to mind is whether you can find a local homebuyer workshop course you can take. Housing counseling agencies often offer these workshops for free or at a very low cost. The reason I suggest it is that a counselor should be able to sit down with you and go over your situation in more detail, and suggest things you may be able to do to get your credit and finances ready to buy a home.

        Another thought is bankruptcy, though it’s a more extreme situation. But some loans are available to consumers as little as two years after bankruptcy.

        My first recommendation, though, is that you find a homebuyer education course. You can look up HUD certified housing counselors here and then reach out to ones in your area to find out what’s available.

    • Sandra

      I had surgery in Jan. 2012 and received a bill from the hospital for the balance of $292.00 not paid by my insurance. I contacted the hospital and made arrangements to pay the balance in two monthly payments. I made the first payment and never received and updated bill from the hospital so, unfortunately, I forgot to make the next payment the following month. The next correspondence I recieved was the 30 day debt validation notice from a collection agency. Rather than responding with a dispute, I paid the balance in full within the 30 days. Three days later they reported on my credit as in “Collections”. The following week they updated my credit report status to “Paid”. Do I have any recourse in getting this removed from my credit? It seems unfair to report it on my credit, which will now stay for seven years, when I promptly paid it upon notice from the collection agency.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Sandra –

        I agree that it seems rather extreme to damage your credit for that small amount, especially when it wasn’t that late and you paid it as soon as you discovered the error. Unfortunately, there aren’t many consumer protections here. Two suggestions:

        1. Speak up. I would send a polite but firm letter to the hospital describing what happened, and explaining how this is going to damage your credit reports for the next seven years. Ask them to intervene with the collection agency on your behalf. Send a copy of that letter to the BBB and any other organizations you can think of. You’ll find some suggestions here.

        2. Contact your legislators in Washington, share your story and weigh in on the Medical Debt Responsibility Act which would help consumers in your situation.

        Finally, if you can’t get anywhere now you might try disputing the collection account in a year or two. Collection agencies don’t always bother to verify paid accounts and if it’s not verified it will be removed. I can’t say for sure it will work, but you can try!

    • sonia

      Back in 2009 our 20 yr. old daughter was involved in a major car accident and needed to be transported to ICU. She was covered by insurance at the time thru my husband’s policy. Today at of no where we found out a civil suit has been rendered by a RN that occurred over 3 yrs. for over 3 thousand. To top it all off when we looked over the docket I picked up in court to see who or what was sueing us (a bait and switch) was noticed. The original bills (RN plus surgeon amounted well over 100,000) but the RN bill (patient’s name) in the docket changed from my daughter to my husband and left out all the CPT #’s and only submitted a small portion of bill. Question: what recourse do we have? Smells like fraud to me esp. when the name of patient was changed. (also acct. was levied)?

      • Gerri Detweiler


        Given the circumstances you are describing, I suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney.

    • Pingback: How to Negotiate Your Medical Bills | ComparePlastic()

    • marilyn

      my son 35,got laid off in oct. 2011, had a bad 4-wheeler wreck in nov. 2011 medical bills are over 260,000 dollars. the hospital is garnishing his unemployment ck. leaving him with a 100.00 a week to live om.is their any help or a solution to this nightmare. its affecting me also for i am having to help him out and im on a fixed income. if anyone knows of any kind of help please let me know

      • Gerri Detweiler


        So sorry to hear about your son’s accident. Has he considered bankruptcy? $260,000 is a huge debt to try to pay off…

    • Susan

      I was hit by an uninsured DUI. One of my medical treatments involved an ambulatory surgery center, to whom I provided my health insurance and auto insurance information.

      Recently I received a letter indicating they would turn my account over to collections because it was not paid by the auto insurance. They also claim they were never given the health insurance information, although it is clearly listed on my intake paperwork (of which I have a copy).

      The billing department is out of town, and are unwilling to make changes. How do I go about challenging this bill, as the timely filing window for my health insurance has passed?

    • krystel

      I was just contacted by collections, collecting an unpaid bill from a dermatology office.
      I never, EVER, received a bill from them.
      And the insurance says I have to pay less than they are actually charging me.
      but since it is in collections now, all I get is “when will you pay”

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Krystel –

        Did the doctor’s office bill your insurance? Did you get an Explanation of Benefits from your insurance company showing the amount that was your responsibility to pay? Did your insurance refuse to pay the bill or was it applied to your deductible? Have you talked with the doctor’s office to find out why they sent it to collections without notifying you first?

        • krystel

          Yes the doctor’s office did send a claim to the insurance, and I did get an Explanation of Benefits, which shows I owe around $106.4, but the actual amount in Collections is $336.58.
          I called the office, and they told me that the insurance had paid some of the charges, but that it had withdrawn it later. This I have no proof of. As I don’t a bill with why the insurance would have done that, or rejected the claim. I told them to send me another bill showing all that was charged. They agreed but precised it wouldn’t include the exact amount as this is in the hands of collections. When i called collections however, they said I should call the office to get the details of what was charged. I also asked why I never received a bill from them, and they replied that they had sent 4 bills starting March. which i never received. and I gave them several ways to contact me in the forms I filled out, I even called the office later at different times to get an extension on my refills, but they never mentioned the balance on my account.

    • Nikki

      I am trying to understand my situation. I was responsible for a car accident in which one of my children was injured. He went to the ER VIA ambulance. I provide the hospital my insurance info. They never send it to my insurance company for billing. They kept sending me a bill totaling over $1000. Of course I don’t have that sitting around, so I keep begging them to send it to my insurance company. They then turn it over to collections. The collection agent tells me that before they billed my employer covered insurance, Ineeded to send them a denial letter from my auto insurance first. I didn’t understand why they would hold up getting payment because of which insurance they could bill. I didn’t have the provision in my auto anyway. But after 6 months they finally try to bill my insurance company. They deny it stating they did not bill timely. The insurance company also tells them they can’t bill me for it due to some sort of contractual obligation. The collections agency is still pursuing me even after being notified by my insurance company. Why would they elect to get nothing from my insurance company because of the way my child was injured? I pay the premiums every month and the accident was my fault. Do I. Have any recourse besides to continue to dispute this with the credit bureau?

    • Ty White

      I had A1 credit scores of 752, 791, 787 until i became very ill and was diagnosed with Cancer Lymphoma. I have no insurance. I had insurance for four months through my state medicaid. However, they said that I was not disabled therefore, they cut my medical off. I can not work or get medical. The good thing is I am now in remission after seven months of chemotherapy. However, my doctors are still montioring me becasue the Cancer was so advanced. Plus I have heart failure. The state of Nevada will not give me any form of assistance medical or finances. I can see if I was always begging for help. However, I was a 25 year old in graduate school finishing my clinical hours to become a therapist. However, I was very very ill. Now, I feel like all of my plans have went down hill. What do I do? I want to get my credit back right so I can have a descent career but the hospital has turned all my bills over to collections. I thought about chapter 7 or chapter 13 but I really dont want to do that. Any thoughts?

    • Kenneth

      I have a mother in a nursing home, I filled out the paperwork under the impression that Medicare and Medicaid would be paying the bill. I was blindsided by 18 layers of Medicaid reterick about her assets and ineligabilty periods. It now looks like the Nursing home will come after me for the bill. The government is really trying to stick it to the public. As for Medicaid and Medicare they should remember who made who before they deny claims that should be approved. The American people made these funds what they are by the taxes and deductions taken from our paychecks every week all to take care of the unfortunate uninsured. The healthcare crisis is a result of greed and faulty government legislation plain and simple. The working man has done his part by doing what working people do. Its time for the government to admit its mistakes and take our jobs back from countries we gave them too. And for gods sake stop participating in the conflicts of countries charity starts at home. Stop buying oil that’s insane. Open our oil reserves and transition into clean energy sources and build it here. Wipe the dust off our made in America stamps and lets get back into the game its not over yet.

    • fran

      I am currently fighting with the hospital I had my daughter at a year ago over a payment plan. They agreed to a payment plan in September of 2011. In April of 2012 I was my payment isn’t big enough and I can apply for possible financial aid. Which they still haven’t processed. They are now threatening to sue me if I don’t increase my payment to what they want. I don’t understand how they can agree to one amount for my payment plan and later say it isn’t enough?

    • Jocelyn

      I have a Medical bill from 2008..that went from 2800 to 3400 dollars ..I had surgery and was off from work for 3 months.. I was in physical therapy and was off from work for 3 -4 months . During that time my company dropped the insurance carrier I had and we picked another carrier.. Now I informed the people at the desk that I changed insurance companies and gave them the name they said no problem just bring in the card when you receive it.. so I did ..they took a copy of it…and I was still allowed to go to therapy.. Then when my therapy was over I receive a bill in the mail saying I owe them this money.. I told the person what happened she told me to talk to both insurance companies I did and I wrote letters and they both turned the claim down.. I talked to the lady again and told her what I could pay and she said that was not enough.. I had not even gone back to work yet…then she said this will be my last chance to pay ,,I told her there was no way I could pay what they wanted ..so they sent it to a collection agency..these people have not contacted me since 2009 and now I want to purchase a home and that’s the only thing on my credit that’s negative and I told them I would do a settlement and they wont do it..

    • Michelle

      I have a hospital bill for almost $7,000.00. I am disabled and live on a very small income. They told me today that I had to pay them $200.00 a month to keep out of collections by the end of the week. My medicare part A back dates to 2009 part b this month. The bill was from 2010. This is the first statement I recieved from this hospital so they refuse to allow me financial assistance. Any advice on how I can get this lowered?

    • Lisa Laney

      I received a bill from a collection agency 1 mo ago, on behalf of a local hospital, for 2 OP procedures done 10/06 & 2/07 in the amounts of $150 & $101.50. I checked w/my bank and could not find any payments to the hosp for either amt. during that time period which leads me to believe that the hosp never billed me. I always paid my bills to the hosp & MD for the OP procedures(for pain control). I can’t prove that the hosp did not bill me. I called the hosp and they “sold their accts”to RMB(coll agcy) and said they do not have the records. BCBS said that these were copay amts for the OP procedure, which is what I thought. If I had received a bill from the hosp, I would have paid it and it would have never went to collections. Is there anything that I can do? I live in AL.

    • Rob

      I got a bill from a “collection agency” but when I called the medical billing office they said it was not actually IN collections, but that they send “collection” notices three times before it is actually turned over to the “collections” company. Can they legally send you notices for a collection if it is NOT in a collection agency? The letter specifies that it is a debt collection and has been refered to them for collection. Is this legal or a form of intimidation into making me pay a disputed bill?

      • Gerri Detweiler


        The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to outside collection agencies. I am not aware if any specific laws that apply to this kind of practice but there could be a state law that applies. (I doubt it though).

        Look at the bright side. At least you got advance notice before it went to an outside collection agency and created a collection account on your credit reports. Once that happens, the damage is generally done.

    • Monte

      Please tell me what you make of this one: I just received an Explanation of Benefits (“this is not a bill”) letter from an insurer I used to be with regarding a medical practitioner I haven’t been to in one year (and don’t intend on returning to). The letter lists an eight year old procedure they say wasn’t paid for (“diagnosis code submitted is not complete”, “not a covered benefit” and “procedure code submitted was not valid” are stated as reasons). Eight years later? My bank can’t even look back that far to confirm if I paid. What are the chances that this is an instance of balance billing? Thanks in advance.

    • Mary

      My credit score dropped 172 points in one month because an unpaid hospital bill for $1554 showed up as a collection. Pulled up your article to strategize my score improvement, great article. Unfortunately, implies the damage is done and almost irrepairable for 7 years +180 days. I was among your myth-ified, thinking that once you paid a collection it was taken off your credit report. I am the one who contacted the collection agency when I saw it on my report and they immediately offered me a one-time deal of “pay now and pay less” which I refused because I felt it would be more detrimental AND as I told the collection agent, “I pay my debts.”

      QUESTION: The article mentioned a collection can stay on the report for 7 years/180 days, but is it possible to negotiate the removal of the collections from the report once it is paid? If so, how best to pursue with success?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Mary –

        It is possible to negotiate the removal of a collection account for payment, but it’s not easy. The collection agencies technically are not supposed to do “pay for removal” deals under their contracts with the credit reporting agencies.

        If this account was turned over to collections without the opportunity to resolve it, though, you may want to push hard for them to remove it if you pay it. For example, if you were going back and forth with your insurance company and the medical provider sent it to collections, or if you never received a bill before it wound up in collections, then you may want to argue that it shouldn’t be in collections and damaging your credit reports. If you simply ignored the bill, then that concession would be harder to argue.

        You might have more success if you deal directly with the medical provider. You may find this other story I wrote helpful: Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit. Of course, if you are successful either way, get any agreements in writing before you pay.

        If you can’t negotiate removal, then keep in mind that settling it versus paying it in full shouldn’t make a difference in your scores.

    • Cheri

      My adult son, who has been severely disabled from birth with autism and who is on social security disability, was hospitalized last summer while visiting relatives in NH. We are thankful that his life was saved. However, because it was out of the full coverage area for his insurance (CA, MediCal) not all of the bills were covered by his insurance and he now has medical bills which he will never in his lifetime be able to pay. They recently went to a collection agency and are now showing up on both my credit report and my husband’s- maybe because my husband has the same first and last name. What can we do to get these medical bills written off and also removed from our credit reports?

    • Gina

      On 6/27/12 I just received, for the first time, a bill from a hospital-with the date of service as 2/28/10. My insurance did apply the amount to my deductible at the time. Do I have to pay this bill – even though they are billing me two years later?

      • Gerri Detweiler


        I am not aware of any reason why you wouldn’t be responsible for this amount now. The statute of limitations for consumer debts in most states is usually 4 – 6 years so a 2-year old bill is probably still collectible. You may want to check with your state attorney general’s office or a consumer law attorney to be sure.

    • jae

      My spouse and I have unpaid medical bills on our credit report. The bills stem from a workers comp claim several years ago that was billed incorrectly, and subsequently ended up in collections. We were lucky, in that, we had a relationship with the lending institution we were using to finance our mortgage. We explained the error, and brought in documentation showing that what we said was true, and they disregarded the blemishes on our credit report. A few moths prior, we were thinking of buying a new car, and we were expected to pay exhorbitant rates for the loan, due to the aforementioned blemishes. We declined to purchase that vehicle.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Jae –

        Thanks for sharing your story. Nuts isn’t it?

    • Justin valled

      oh the same thing happen to me with an ambulance bill for 1,350 that just went to collections a year after i got placed in the hospital by a driver who was never insured and not even from this country legally. i paid all my hospital bills out of pocket but never once did i receive a bill for the ambulance and just yesterday i had got from a collections agency letting me know i was placed there because of my unpaid ambulance bill. ugh its such a BS THING FOR THEM TO SEND ME TO COLLECTIONS AND NEVER SEND ME LETTERS LETTING ME KNOW i owed them money for the ambulance ride because i wonder what they were thinking if they saw i paid all my hospital bills in full amounts once i got the letters.

    • Sherry

      I was referred to a dr to get 3 injections in my back. Their office said they needed to call Blue Cross to see if they’d authorize the procedure. Within a week I came home and the dr’s office had called, left a message on my phone that Blue Cross ‘authorized your procedure’. I returned the call and scheduled the procedure. 2 weeks later Blue Cross sent me an ‘Explanation of Benefits’ stating the dr was in their network. The next day I received another ‘Explanation of Benefits’ from Blue Cross telling me this same dr was ‘outside their provider network’. Blue Cross paid $980 for the procedure and the dr’s office said I owe them the balance of $5794.98. It appears someone at Blue Cross had made the initial mistake saying this dr was in their network, gave their authorization to Blue Cross, sent me the initial Explanation of Benefits – than someone at Blue Cross realized this dr was out of their provider network and changed the billing. I tried to reason with the dr’s office but they don’t care. I told them had I known I’d be responsible for the costs, I would never have had the procedure done (the injections didn’t help). I also told them when they called and left the voice mail stating Blue Cross had given their authorization for the procedure – to me this meant Blue Cross would either cover the entire procedure or at least 80% – not just 15%. I also told them I was recently unemployed and what a hardship it would be. Now I believe all of this is Blue Cross’s fault and they should pay for the whole procedure as they had said originally this dr was in their provider network, and had called this dr’s office to tell them they authorized the procedure. I am wondering if this is the course of action I should take. And if so, would the dr’s office tell me who at Blue Cross authroized the procedure. Do I have the right to know? Thank you,

    • Paul


      What if the medical isn’t yours? Identity theft, or even worse an ex-wife puts your name on the paper and says you are responsible for it.

      I haven’t lived in the same state as her for 13 years, and supposedly I went to for a visit in June of 2010. The collection agency is coming after me cause she listed me as the one who would pay the bill.. We’ve been divorced since 2001.

      the collection agency is saying it was me that visited the Dr Office even though I told them I don’t live there. Furthermore I asked for itemized copies of the bill and paperwork I signed saying I owe the debt yet never received any of it.

      I live in California they are in Washington State. Will California law protect me somewhat on how long I have to dispute this. I thought asking for the bill and disputing it over the phone when I first recieved the bill was notification and good enough.

      So now it’s months later and I am at a loss of what I can do being as I never went to this doctor.

      (I have not been liable for any debt of my ex’s since back in 2000 when we separated.)


    • Paul

      Ola, moro no estado da Pensilvania e ha um mes atras, fui operado de emergencia. Me cobraram U$ 13.000.00 depois de 2 semanas ja operado e com desconto, pois nao tenho seguro. Nao tenho tambem esse valor pra pagar. Eu estou ilegal no pais, portanto nao tenho credito. Irei voltar pro Brasil ainda esse ano. Tenho que me preocupar com alguma ameaca de cobranca ou ate mesmo em me levarem pra corte? Como funciona o nao pagamento.

    • James

      My Wife recently went in for a physical with an in-network doctor. The doctors website stated ‘Complete Physical including all Lab Work for $249″. She went to the physical, and we later found out that the doctor ordered over 21 different tests, and in the end we were directly billed by the Quest Diagnostics lab for over $1,849 worth of lab that we did not consent to or request them perform. We are shocked that a routine physical can cost us this much even with it being an in-network doctor, do we have any options …can we sue the Doctor for Fraud, or even the LAB(since we never asked the lab to perform these tests, they were ordered by the Doctor)?

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

        James – have you talked to the doctor’s office about why they are advertising $249 when it cost you much more than that? What did they say?

    • jay

      I have a medical bill from when i was recieving medicaid. i thought i was coved so i went to the emergency room because i could not move my finger. they fixed the problem. then, 1 year later i check my credit report and find i have a collections account on it. i just got my credit in the 700’s and im 20 years old. i was so happy about this and now its messed up. the hospital told me medicaid dennied to cover. i never recieved a letter from medicaid about this. i dont feel as if im responsible for this. if i knew this was going to happy i would have never went to the hospital. when im sick i dont get medical help because now i am afraid i wont be able to afford it and my credit will be messed up. i dont think its right to do this and worry people enough to where they put there health to risk. this should not be legal. everyone should recieve medical help reguardless of what they can afford. if they would have worked with me on a payment instead of demanding i pay it i could have. but they would rather mess up my credit. and its only 500 dollars.. but im a young, single mother waiting tables to get by. i dont recieve child support or any help. so im barely getting by. but hopefully this will be resolved!

    • Paul

      I read the story “Four Medical Bill Myths That Can Cost You Dearly” and need to know what I can do if anything, about our situation.
      My Wife received a bill for $10.00 dollars from a doctor in January. We never received another bill or any other communication from the DR. She went to get refinanced this month for the house and it was on her credit report. She went from a score of 803 to 669!
      Is there anything we can do?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        It doesn’t seem right that a $10 bill could do that much damage to your wife’s credit scores, does it?!

        Were you waiting for insurance to pay the bill? Or did you think the bill was a mistake? Either way, as long as it wasn’t just a matter of ignoring the bill, my best advice is for you to contact the doctor’s office, explain what this bill has done to your credit and how much it will cost you in terms of your mortgage, and ask them to take it back from the collection agency so you can get it removed from your credit reports. Simply paying it will not help your credit scores, so that’s not a viable solution.

        This other article I wrote may help: Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit. Although her situation was a bit different, the same approach can apply. Another reader successfully used it to get a medical collection off his credit report so he could refinance his home. Hope it works for you too!

        You may also want to weigh in on the Medical Debt Responsibility Act. That legislation would definitely help in your case if it were law.

    • Blake

      Dear Gerri,

      In January of 2012 I fell and sprained my outermost tip of my pinky backwards. I tried to pull it back into place, but couldn’t stand the pain and feared worsening it, so I went to La Palma Intercommunity Hospital and went into the ER. Big Mistake. The Doctor ran 3 X Rays, decided my pinky was fine and pulled it back into place. She then ran 3 more X Rays “to be sure everything is ok.” Not only have I been hit with a bill from La Palma Intercommunity Hospital for $968, I’ve been hit with a bill from the Orange County Emergency Medical Associates for $968. Even though I shouldn’t have gone to the ER, when I’m being charged $1936 for a pinky, you know something is seriously wrong with our medical system. This is insanity at its finest, and no american is safe from the absurd billing practices of hospitals and ER rooms. My bills have already been updated to delinquent status, I’ve already had to deal with paying off bills from collection agencies, so I’m sure my credit score is already wrecked. I’m going to be 22 in a month, I still live at home and am a full time student, I won’t have earned my degree until 3.5 years from now, so I’m wondering is it even worth slaving away to pay off these absurd bills? How many entities can these hospitals and ER rooms pose as to treat people like personal piggy banks? They harass us with collections agencies, and hide behind obscure “professional” language to justify absurd bills.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Blake –

        I agree the system isn’t working as it is! Have you tried negotiating directly with the hospital (not the collection agency)? You may find this article helpful: Big Hospital Bill? Negotiate!

    • Charles

      Gerri Detweiler,
      My wife and I are unemployed and have been for over two years. We went to Florida in hopes of having better luck. During our stay my wife got very sick and I had to rush her to the hospital’s ER. She was admitted for a bladder infection and kidney stones. She spent about five days at the hospital and now we are facing a bill of over $100,000.00 and no way to pay for it. And since we were just visiting and are not residence of Florida, we do not qualify for help.
      I have very little money in the bank which we have been using to live on. Can the hospital go after the little savings I have even if my wife’s name is not on the account?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Charles –

        So sorry to hear what you have been going through. Given the amount you are talking about here, I would really encourage you to meet with a bankruptcy attorney to find out whether your savings is safe from creditors.

    • paul

      We recieved a bill in January for $10.00 but had already paid 2 other bills from the hospital that month and thought this amount was already paid. We never heard from the hospital again and when we wnt to refinance our house last week it turned up on my wife’s credit and lowered her score 120 points. When we called the hospital to pay it they told us for such a small amount they only mail 1 bill and don’t alert the person when it is past due, nor do they send any additional notification. How is this legal?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Unfortunately, it usually is legal. Really, the system doesn’t work that well for patients or providers. It probably isn’t worth their time to chase a $10 balance and it’s confusing to you when you are getting all kinds of different bills for the same visit.

        My guess is if you raise enough of a stink with the hospital, and let them know that this may cost you thousands of dollars on your mortgage, you may be able to persuade someone to pull it back from the collection agency so you can get it off your wife’s credit reports. I am not saying it is easy, but it has worked for other readers.

        And make sure you weigh in on the Medical Debt Responsibility Act with your legislators in Washington!

    • BMArie

      Ok so I just found out that a bill has been in collections for a medical visit for my daughter she is ten, I had no idea that her insurance at the time didn’t pay it, the collection’s agency keeps trying to call and talk to her, It is as of now a time barred collection, but they refuse to stop calling for her, I have explained two times that it is time barred and she is only 10 so they need to stop calling her and they wont stop. (I have contacted the insurance to find out why its not covered) but of course I didn’t let the collection agency know this information.

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

        If you’ve told the collection agency to stop calling and they don’t, then your next options are to:

        1. File a complaint with the FTC, Better Business Bureau, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (consumerfinance.gov) and send a copy of the complaint to the company hoping that it finally gets through to them that they need to stop trying to call her, or

        2. Contact a consumer law attorney who sues collection agencies. The attorney may be willing to take your case at no cost to you since the collection agency may have to pay your attorney’s fees (and damages to you) if it is breaking the law.

    • Sarah

      My husband was in the hospital a few years back before we were married after a motorcycle accident. He didnt have any insurance coverage at the time. A huge medical bill of over 11000 dollars was left for him to pay and was sent to collections. We just sent in the final check to pay off this balance. We WERE so excited thinking we are finally debt free. We tried to get pre-approved for a mortgage just this week. We found out his credit score wasnt high enough. When we went over the report we found another medical bill from the same accident for over 21000 dollars! We have never seen the bill or have been contacted about it but it was sent to collections without any knowledge of the bill existing at all. We called the collection agency to tell her we never recieved the bill and like we expected she didnt believe us. What can we do? Anything? We want to avoid his wages being garnished at all costs! We have 1 baby and another due in 3 months and after feeling relieved to be “debt free” we feel completely defeated once again.

    • cindy

      i have an issue with a dr bill for my son.he was a minor when we made the appointment.he was to be seen locally and then have a satelitte visit over a skin condition with uva.when the appointment day arrived the equipment wouldnt work properly for whatever reason.the appointment had to be rescheduled.months later, 21 days after his birthday, he went for the appointment.he had medicaid up until his birthday.long story short, its in collections now against my son. i am furious because i have always taught my kids to not do what i did and ruin their credit.its worth more than cash.i cannot afford the terms they offered to keep it from affecting his credit.is there anything anyone can suggest.i do not want him to start off in the negative for something he had no control over. please help

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri


        I wish I had an easy answer for you on this one. It sounds like your son’s treatment was done after his Medicaid coverage expired and now he’s stuck with a high bill. I don’t know what, if any, legal rights he has in this situation. I suspect he’s sort of stuck. However, it sounds like the doctor’s office was willing to accept Medicaid before his coverage expired so they should at least allow you to pay what Medicaid would have paid them. That doesn’t seem unreasonable, though I doubt they are obligated to do so.

        I’d suggest you see if you can appeal to someone higher up in the billing department and explain that it wasn’t your fault that their equipment was broken when your son tried to get the treatment, ask them to reduce their charges to what Medicaid would have paid, and ask them to accept it in the form of a payment plan if he can’t pay it in full right away.

        The medical provider that placed it in collections should be able to pull it back from collections so that it can get removed from your son’s credit reports. If they are uncooperative, you can complain to the Better Business Bureau.

        You and your son may also want to check out the Medical Debt Responsibility Act, which will provide some protection in this type of situation if it is passed by Congress and becomes law.

    • Ellen


      I am trying to clean up my credit by paying medical bills that have gone to collections. I contacted the collection agency to make an arrangement to pay a bill and request that it be deleted from my credit report. I was told:
      1. They could not settle for a lower amount because the medical provider did not allow settlements.
      2. I had to pay all bills with that collection company (1 bill was 12 years old) before they would delete anything from my credit report.
      3. They could not send me anything in writing saying it would be deleted from my credit report.

      Are all of these things accurate and legal?

    • Dan


      I have seven medical accounts under $100 which have gone to collections. Should I send a Pay for Delete letter to the collection agency or should I ignore the bills altogether since they are below $100.

      I am just so confused as to how to proceed. I just want my score to go up. What do you recommend?

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

        Great question Dan. Ideally you want these off your credit reports. While the latest FICO model ignores collection accounts where the original balance is less than $100, not all lenders use that model. (Most notably, it is not used when you apply for a mortgage.)

        If you can get the collection agencies to agree to delete if you pay, then by all means, that’s the way to go. But they aren’t going to readily agree, because their contracts with the credit reporting agencies prohibit those kinds of deals. Still, if you have a good reason why these ended up in collections (you never received a bill and didn’t know they were unpaid, for example), I’d recommend you push hard for the deletion.

        • Tim

          I can attest to the fact that most mortgage companies still do in fact use the older scoring model.
          In 2010, I had a cardiac stress test performed and I was told by the office staff that if there were a copay, they would bill me as at that time they were uncertain. 18 months later, I found out that it was sent to a collection agency. After speaking to the cordial women from the agency on the phone who told me that it would not go on my credit reporti if I paid it ( shouldve got that in writing) , I paid the 30.00 owed.
          While applying for my mortgage I found that it still is on my report and has tanked my scores over 100 points! (They are now below the 680 mid score most banks require for a conventional loan.
          I am 10 days away from my settlement date and still do not have a mortgage. Our lease in the home we our renting ends in 9 days. My wife and I and our 3 daughters are about to be homeless. And guess what? The collection agency doesnt care!

          • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

            You’re absolutely right. For mortgage underwriting purposes, older versions of the score are used.

            Crazy isn’t it – 100 point credit drop for a $30 unpaid copay!? If I were you I would go back to that original doctor’s office and raise a stink. If they placed it with collections (without notifying you first, it sounds) they should most certainly be able to pull it back from collections.

    • Cathy

      Back in 2009, my 9 year old daughter was playing a game of soccer and while performing a slliding side kick she fell to the ground. A young boy ran along side and while kicking the soccer ball kicked her hand/wrist area and broke it in half. After the transport to hospital, hours later and several X-rays, it was determined that she needed emergency surgery on her wrist to set it. Whilst all the insurance matter were adhered to, I rececied a bill for non-payment of services. To my amazement, the insurance compnay would not pay ($66) for the X-ray’s that determined my daughter’s need for the emergency surgery that costs well over $22,000 for which the insurance did cover with the exception of the deductible. I wrote a letter appealling the process and relunctantly the paid it in full.

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

        Unbelievable, isn’t it?

    • Beth


      In writing the above I meant to say medicaid not medicare for adults and their children. Personally I think this stinks! I paid into this all my working years and so did my now deceased ex- husband of 25 years. I haven’t ever been on welfare and I paid and paid dearly for all these people to have benefits and now that I need help who gets everything? Only adults with children and over 65 and disabled. What a rip off!

      • bored

        Beth it is actually Medicare that you pay into each payday along with social security and federal income tax

    • Beth


      I have a question. I live in Missouri and I am on social security. I do not qualify for Medicare yet at my age. However I was told if I developed a continuing condition I might qualify for it. I paid for years into medicare but now find that they only cover children, people with children and people over 65 and the blind and disabled. I can’t afford health insurance as it is around $600 or more per month and my social security is below the average payment. I was hoping I would stay well until 66 but suddenly I find myself in an apparent emergency situation with one half of my body swollen up. I believe this is circulatory and I don’t know what will happen to me in an emergency room when I go in to see about it. There is no way I will ever be able to pay for this and I haven’t been able to find a job since last summer. Do you know how you get a hospital to not charge you. I have heard that is why they have auxiliaries to pay for people like me. How do I get this help?

      • Gerri Detweiler


        I’d recommend you raise your question with The Access Project. They are a health care research organization and they do try to assist consumers with questions like yours. They may be able to point you to resources in your area that can help.

    • CDR

      I went to the ER for a pain on my left side and back. I have a PPO ins. They did cat scans,mri, and ultrasound test. They determined kidney stones and gallstones. They admitted me that night and the next morning 2 different Drs. came in to see me. The Dr. for the kidneystones said the procedure would me done on the same day as the gallbladder removal. The next morning the gallbladder was removed but the procedure for the stones was not done until the following day. The point being each procedure I needed an anesthesilogist, that was two fees I was billed for. I was kept in the hospital for 5 day. I did not have pain or any discomfort. The urologist never came to see me. On my 1st follow up with the urologist his comment was ” I didn’t even know you were still in the hospital. That visit he said he need another Xray. I went in to have the Xray and took it back to the Dr. He sees it and says I have to go back in the hospital for a Laser. He says I have fragment. Now we are in a new year with a new deductable. If he would have seen me in the hospital and followed up with me, it would have been the same date of service before the end of the year and I wouldn’t have to pay a new deductable. His office told me I would have to pay my $2000 deductible to have the procedure done. Now I have the collectors calling for his $900. his office said I owe for the 1st procedure which I feel was never completed.

    • Intelligent Reader

      Actually, if you know anything about the laws, State and Federal laws then you know that most of the information in this article is false. According to Federal law, EVERY bill you occur must notify you before being sent to a collections agency- I know because I have won over a Medical bill issue in court with this exact law. Same with banks. If you are actually seeking answers for your questions, research the answer for yourself. Don’t rely on someone to write an article for you. Do you know where they got this information? No. Double check and find the laws you are looking for online. They’re are copies of EVERY law released on all government websites. Use your own brain.

    • J

      I was in a car accident in March, and had bills totaling $2200, and the insurance company from the “other person” who hit me, did not pay my bills, and sent me a check for LESS than the medical bills. Since then, one of my bills went to collection, and the insurance company is not calling me back. What should you suggest I do? I am fed up with this situation, and don’t have the money to pay them out of pocket, I am only 19.

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

        J – It’s hard for me to know how to advise you here since I don’t know whether the insurance company is obligated to pay your full medical bills or not. But I can tell you that any bills that go into collections will hurt your credit reports and scores for years to come. So it’s worth trying to find some answers – even if you need to talk with an attorney.

    • Kat

      I am currently being stone walled by Diagnostic Imaging of South Jersey PC for an unpaid bill that they were supposed to reduce due to my need of Charity Care. I was told by my hospital billing department that I had to send a copy of my CC letter to DI and I did; four times in four months!! However, no one at the billing center/telephone call center will acknowledge receipt of the letter and I am now being pelted with automated collection phone calls. Should I get a lawyer? I can’t afford one but my stress levels are at an all time high. Please help.

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

        Kat – It wouldn’t hurt to talk with a consumer law attorney to learn your rights here. Unfortunately, the situation you are experiencing is all too common. I hope you’ll share this witt the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (ConsumerFinance.gov). Hopefully they will look into this area.

    • Lynn

      I just researched my credit report and was unaware of a medical bill that went into collection. I had a payment plan and received a statement that it was paid in full not knowing this must have been not included in the payment plan.So I panicked and payed the 93.00 dollars and now I see this will have a negative effect on my credit score in which I been trying so hard to fix.Is there anything I can do to get it taken off my credit report ? I did call the collection agency back and ask them and they informed this would not put a negative mark on my credit report.

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

        Lynn – I am confused. Is this reported as a collection account already? If so, then the damage has already been done to your credit reports. Paying it doesn’t make a difference one way or the other. It’s the fact that it’s reported as a collection account that hurts your credit.

    • Thy Holds

      I was unaware of any medical bills owed until I checked my credit score. It was for a hospital visit that required stitches, however, I never went to this hospital or ever had any stitches. I’m not sure if someone used my insurance card or not, but how can I settle this? I tried calling the credit agency but they only try to get my employers information and other private info and do not want to hear that I am not the one that went to the hospital. What can I do in this situation?

      • Gerri Detweiler


        Who is the company reporting the information? The hospital or a collection agency? You have the right to dispute the inaccurate credit report listing with the company reporting the information (the “furnisher”). There should be an address for them on your credit reports. Send them a certified letter stating this account is not yours. They are required to investigate and get back to you within 30 days. Let me know what kind of a response you get.

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    • Preston


      Thanks for writing this up. My wife and I have been disputing a facility fee for a while now. She went in and had some tests done. Initially the insurance company denied payment citing relation to a previous diagnosis she had since she was a child. They wanted all this extra paperwork on it before they would consider the claim. After FINALLY figuring out exactly what they wanted, they paid their fair share of the bill and we thought we were done (over a year later). Not so! A few months after that, we got a bill for $200+ for a facility fee. Just for her going in to see a doctor at the place her insurance told her to go (which apparently is owned by a hospital, though not at a hospital). The insurance company denied payment of that, and we disputed.

      The medical center claimed that my wife signed a document acknowledging they may charge a facility fee, thus it was entirely ok to be charged that fee. Yes, among 10 pages of small print, apparently there is wording that there may be a facility fee incurred. But why would we think this wouldn’t be covered as part of the payment to see the Dr.? Anyway, we responded that the charge was unfair, had a few emails and phone calls back and forth, eventually not hearing from them as of 6 months or so ago.

      Yesterday we got a letter in the mail from a collection agency. They are wanting to collect the $200 owed. We are looking to try to buy our first place soon and a collection on our credit could destroy our chances of getting a mortgage. Having done some more reading, it seems like this is an issue of “balance billing” which apparently is illegal here in Ca. Even if we can prove that this is an erroneous (or illegal) charge, it sounds like we may still have this collection put on our credit report!

      It seems to me that these sort of things shouldn’t be placed on your credit report when there is an ongoing dispute over the charges until it is settled.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I agree. It doesn’t seem fair that they have the ability to ruin your credit over a disputed charge. Let us know what happens.

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    • Betty

      Just a question. I have recently started working for a physicians office. After looking over reports and working on the AR for a few months I am finding charges from 2008 and 2009 still on the report. When I look these claims up I am finding that the insurances have responded in a timely manner. Unfortunetly the people working these accounts before didnt know what they were doing and never posted the responses. Some of which have gone to the patients responsibility. What is the rules about billing the patient their portion? I dont really want to send it to the patients simply because when they call me its going to be so embaressing to explain to them why they are recieveing a bill from 2009!!!!! My office mgr really wants me to bill the patients. Please help!! Thanks.

      • Gerri Detweiler


        It’s great that you are trying to do the right thing here. First, I’d encourage you to find out what the statute of limitations is for collecting medical debt in your state. That’s something you’ll need to check with an attorney to determine. Secondly, you didn’t make it clear why these debts are the patient’s responsibility. Is it deductibles? If that’s the case, then the patients should have received an Explanation of Benefits from their insurance companies so at least there should have been some indication to them that they were responsible for these charges applied to deductibles. But if the claims were denied for other reasons and your office didn’t bill them, they may not have had the chance to appeal the decision to the insurance company, which really isn’t fair to them. You’ll also need to check with the insurance companies involved because there may be contractual issues involved with billing these patients at this late date. (And there may be legal issues as well. Again, I can’t advise you on that.) Finally, I would encourage your doctor to consider writing a cover letter to go out with these bills explaining what happened and offering payment plans to patients who may not be able to pay right away. You can imagine the responses you are going to have to deal with if they suddenly get old bills in the mail. Hope this helps!

    • Kimberly


      There is no reason for a doctor to make more money off of a patient with no insurance, then a patient WITH insurance. When you get the bill from your doctor, you look up the procedure code at your local medicare website and find out how much Medicare would have paid them. Offer to pay them that a mount. They will likely accept it. I live in Florida and look up fees at http://medicare.fcso.com/Fee_lookup/fee_schedule.asp

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    • KEN












    • Megan

      Had decent insurance, then my employer bought out another co. & switched to the new co’s cheaper insurance. I had some major medical issues, racking up tens of thousands in hospital/Dr bills. The ins co decided just to say no to the bills! No reason, just couldn’t afford to pay. Including a 65,500 bill from University Hosp in Cleveland. The Hosp tried coming after me & thankfully I couldn’t pay (couldn’t work). They then stuck their lawyer on the ins co, who was bought out & ended up going back & paying some of the bills. I know I was lucky, but I still owe thousands. Was told by a lawyer not to pay anything until it was all sorted out so a lot of it went to collections. Credit is ruined.
      In 2010 I went to an UrgCare w/the logo of two hospitals on the front. I’m already approved for the assist programs for both & assumed I would be covered. UrgCare bills separate from the hosp & doesn’t have to follow the programs. I’m being harassed daily by phone & receive threatening letters weekly from the collection agency. If I had known what would happen I’d have waited 12 hrs & had my Dr order the Xrays, assist programs would have covered it then!
      Same problem on an ER visit to one of those hosp. Because the ER doctors bill separately (they are contracted to, not employed by the hosp) they don’t have to follow the assist program. I owe them hundreds for one hr of time & one bag of fluids.
      I inquired about billing before treatment at both places & was told they have assist programs. They do, but because they aren’t regulated like the hospitals they don’t have to approve you if they don’t feel like it. Wish I had known…
      I was harassed over the bill for a mammogram after finding a lump. I was astonished & appalled at how they acted w/o knowing whether or not I had just received a cancer diagnosis! Thankfully that wan’t the problem but they had no way of knowing. I can’t believe they can/will act like that!
      There’s no way to play the insurance/healthcare system game right! They have all the info and won’t share it and just stonewall you if you ask. I’m hoping the bills will stop piling up and I can declare bankruptcy. Hate to do it, but it’s the best option. Last count I was in over 175,000. A lot of which shouldn’t be my responsibility.

    • Sean

      I am a Disabled Veteran, in 2002 I tried to kill myself, and taken in an Ambulance to a Non-V.A. Hospital from a Facility Contracted with the V.A.. I was 20 miles from the Los Angeles Regional Hospital, I was put on involuntary hold and kept for around a week while the Civilian hospital assessed me. I have Medicare and was told Medicare would pay for it. In 2007, I tried to get an apartment, and somehow I aquired a $14,000 Tax Lien filed in 2004 (the IRS had no knowledge of it), with no company that filed it, I tried to contact the company, and it came back as a Law Firm that said it looked like a Mortgage, so in 2010 I contacted myfreecreditscore.com to investigate. They came back that it is either a From my Ambulance and Hospital visit in2002, or I.D. theft but I have no way to confirm. Meanwhile I have a $14,000 state Tax lien indefinitely on my Credit Report. I can’t pay that I make $1,552 a month fixed (SSA/VA disability). What a nightmare, I can’t think of anything else to do except move to Mexico, or somewhere else that they don’t do credit checks. I can’t even Finance a recliner at “Big Lots”.

      • Kenneth

        Hi Sean,
        It’s really sad what the government does to its Veterans I am glad you are still here though.
        Thank you Sean for serving, from the bottom of my heart thank You. I pray for You, May we as country say in God We Trust again and find our way back to our roots. Take care Sean, Gods peace be with You my friend.

        • Michele

          I’m with Kenneth. God bless you, Sean. I hope everything works out for you, and everyone else caught up in these nightmarish situations.

    • Sara

      I moved to the state of Iowa when I was three months pregnant after the father left me. I was put on bedrest and subsequently could not work and had to apply for state medical. all expenses were paid for, including the delivery of my son. Then title 19 recouped their payment for the delivery without my knowledge and I was notified by a collection agency that I owed over nine thousand dollars ( my son and I both had complications after the delivery and had to stay in the hospital for nearly a month ). I was given the run around by the hospital, who told me to take it up with title 19, title 19, who told me to take it up with the hospital, for over two years. Then I was told too much time had passed for title 19 to pay the bill and it was my responsibility. I was seriously and permanantly injured from the birth of my son and am now on disability so obviously I can’t pay this bill. My credit is ruined completely because of an odd occurrence that no one could explain. No one had ever heard of insurance taking their money back while I was covered for six months prior and for three years after the delivery. I dont even have a credit card, have always saved up to pay for things, like my first car which I paid for in full, so as not to end up with bad credit due to unforseen circumstances. My car insurance is sky high because I have bad credit even though I’ve not even had a parking ticket, much less an accident or speeding violation. Screwed completely by credit scores.

    • Cari

      I had a sinus infection last spring and went to our local walk-in clinic to get a prescription for antibiotics. My regular doctor retired and I had not been set up with a new primary doctor so walk-in was my only option. The clinic I went to had recently combined the walk-in reception desk with the ER reception desk. It was in the middle of the day on a weekday and I saw the doc and when I described my symptoms he said he thought I was having a stroke and told me I needed a CT scan. I told him I did not need a CT scan because I knew that I had a sinus infection because I recognized the symptoms from the last time I had one. He told me he couldn’t let me leave until I had the CT scan because the symptoms I described were that of a stoke. I am in my early 30s with no health problems so I thought this was overkill but I agreed thinking my insurance would pay for most of. My insurance would have paid for most of it but the clinic billed everything as ER rather than walk-in and it went toward my deductible so I was stuck with a $1400 bill. I tried to dispute it by explaining that i would never in a milllion years have gone to the ER for a sinus infection knowing full well that I would have to pay for it out of pocket. I had no luck. They said the triage nurse diagnosed me as a possible stroke which automatically is ER. Guess what the CT scan showed. Yep, a sinus infection. I tried to dispute it again and they pretty much accused me of not wanting to pay just because the scan was negative. It’s not a matter of not wanting to pay. I cant afford to pay and I never asked for a scan. All I wanted was antibiotics so the stubborn infection would go away. I’m making small payments on it but it’s gonna take me forever to pay it off and I feel like I got bullied into tests I didnt want or need and the walk-in to ER switch-er-roo was a sneaky way to charge more for the same services.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I think that’s one of the biggest issues, Cari, is that it is impossible to get accurate information upfront so you can make an informed decision! Even with decent health insurance you can end up with enormous bills.

    • D. Fitzgerald

      I live in Canada. We have no such problems with medical bills. Everything is paid for except $22.00 of the ambulance bill. That is why I cannot see why when your President put forth a bill for everyone to be insured, alot of people complained about it. I could have been more long winded about this. All i can say is come to Canada and get a health card.

      • Lisa

        AMEN to that! You are so right! Watch the movie, “Sicko” by Michael Moore. It will show you how messed up our system really is! And isn’t it amazing so many American’s are against the Affordable Health Care Act?? People here enjoy voting for their own oppression I am afraid. Your country is way ahead of ours! America is the only industrialized country that does not have universal healthcare. It is disgusting and embarrassing! You know what? If Romney is elected and somehow overturns what Obama worked so hard to do, I may very well come up there to Canada and get a health card!

        • Lane

          My friends in Canada, Scotland, and England all tell me how easy it is to get doctor’s appointments and how they pay little or nothing for medical care — they just take it for granted that it will be available and free to them. Not one of them would trade what they have and all of them would protest loudly if it were suggested they give up universal health care. Americans have been sold a pack of myths regarding health care and we’re all suffering for it.

    • brenda

      I would vote for this bill…After going to my local bank of 20+ years to inquire about a personal loan for college expenses, I discovered 2 unpaid medical charges from the local hospital from 5 years ago, total of less than $50 combined, that had been sent to a collection company without my knowledge. I had never received a bill for the balance and have lived at the same adddress for over 10 years.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Crazy, isn’t it?!

    • I didnt know I had the bill

      I too like Ali had a medical bill from a car accident, that the Imaging center and they apparently did MRI’s without preauthorization from the Insurance company and they charged me $1600 per image on 2 different days in a roll, unbeknownst to me three years later after I am recovering from a bankruptcy, I recieve a bill for $3800, my attorney’s office paid all bills after the claim was settled, but somehow, I began to recieve this bill that in 2010 which was incurred in 2007. How would i know? Not to mention one of the bills for $1600 was paid and the other never receved by the attorny’s office nor was I notified, until years later. I have been constantly harrassed about it, I have had BC/BS send copies of the paid imagine. However, I disputed it and was told it would be taken care of, but guess what it hasnt and I am still being billed and recieveing collections calls contantly. I have disputed it thourgh the Agencies, and mailed copies of the reciepts and its still on my account as unpaid but disputed. Moreover, every January 1, of each year since this bill shows up on my credit report as brand new with a current date of occurance of Jan 1, 2012 but incurred September of 2007. My credit score has been affected by this harrassement and I am tried of it. They need to pass that law so that this cant affect your score and expunge these from your credit report. Score went from 780 to 660. Still fighting.

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

        Have you talked with a consumer law attorney? The collection agency may be breaking the law by continuing to harass you for the debt and by reporting inaccurate information to the credit reporting agencies.

        You may want to check out our infographic: What to do if a debt collector calls http://blog.credit.com/2010/11/infographic-what-to-do-if-a-debt-collector-calls/

      • Kimberly

        The Imaging Center CAN NOT obtain prior authorization. They are not allowed to. The prior authorization should have been obtained by the doctor that ordered the test. If they or YOU ( as you are the insured and ultimately responsibe for knowing the rules of YOUR insurance) failed to do so. Then the responsibility for the bill is yours. If you had PIP coverage they can subnitt to them and if you had an attorney and signed a letter of protection it was the attorneys responsibility to pay these bills out of your setlement. Go after your attornry.

        • philabustah

          …and where does it state the hospital can take it’s time submitting bills? Also, I’m sorry, but I’m quite annoyed with people telling others what their responsibilities are. If the doctor or hospital accepts certain insurance, they should know what procedures can be done or not and why. In fact, they used to outright tell you. What’s changed? Oh yes! their morals. Any agreement exists in good faith. So, if you’re not acting in good character, why should I? That’s what anyone should expect signing anything. Anything you sign, you should get a copy of. We notice that does not happen anymore either. That’s what goes down when you’re being scammed. You know what a scam is?

    • Tay Tom

      Do you have any suggestion for getting a hospital to bill the correct insurance company. I had dual coverage last fall when I had a few Dr visits with lab work through a hospital. They have continued to bill the insurance company that is supposed to be my secondary insurance as the primary. Needless to say, the bill is being rejected. I have had multiple conversations with people in the billing department, notifying them of their mistake. They actually argue with me over who my primary insurance company is and so far have refused to submit it to the proper company. I have contacted my primary insurance company and they have told me that they can do nothing until they receive a bill, but acknowledge primary responsibility for the claims.

      • http://www.Credit.com Gerri


        The hospital should ombudsman’s office. Ask them to help you get this straightened out. In hte meantime, document everything you are trying to do to correct it in case it does wind up in collections and on your credit reports!

      • Kimberly

        Get a copy of the bill and mail it to the correct insurance company yourself.

    • kim l

      As a billing manager for an imaging center, I have a slightly different viewpoint. If you get a bill or phone call from your provider, call them back! Sometimes insurance information is invalid and just needs to be updated. You are ultimately responsible for any service provided to you but most medical providers will work with you to get your claims paid. I’ve had numerous claims get pended for coordination of benefits inquiries, third party liability inquiries, pre-existing condition inquires, etc. The insurance companies are not going to pay on any claims that they can pass off to another liable party. If you get a bill with the balance still due from the insurance company, contact your insurance to check on the claim status. Your insurance coverage is between you and your carrier, not the medical provider. If your insurance is provided through your employer, get your HR person involved also. Insurance companies process claims electronically and don’t generally look into unpaid claims unless somebody is complaining. You’ve already paid your premiums so get your money’s worth.

      • Gerri Detweiler


        I am sure you get as frustrated by medical billing problems as your patients do! I am not disagreeing with your advice. Still, I don’t think billing mistakes should lead to seven years of ruined credit. Many people try to do the right thing and still end up with bills that aren’t covered when they believe/thought they should be, aren’t processed properly, go straight to collections etc. I think something needs to change.

        • Mark

          I agree 110%. If billing errors are made, 7-10 years of bad credit reporting for the person making the error makes perfect sense. There’s no excuse. 1 person doing the job of 10, too much of a workload, etc……don’t care. Hold billers accountable and we’ll clean this up at least 80%. It’s sloppiness and the billers don’t care. It’s “not their problem” to deal with.

      • Heather S

        I did medical billing for fourteen years. I agree with you to a certain degreee on patient responsibility. Here is the problem, many patients do not have the insight or knowledge you or I have, how is it you expect pateints to know your job as well you? They have jobs, lives and pay substantial premiums only to be made responsible for billing errors made by medical billers. The number one problem I had in billing was not that the patient had not provided proper billing information but that front desk employees failed to update the system. There is not a Dr.’s office I go to that doesn’t make me complete a new set of forms each and every visit. I as the biller would check the patient’s chart before sending them to collections to see if this mistake had been made and 9 times out of 10, it had. See I as the biller slept better at night knowing I had not sent an innocent patient to collections because my front desk was to incompetent to or untrained to properly update a patient’s profile. The truth is I collected our office’s bills quicker from the insurance company verse sending a patient to collections Not to mention collection agencies charge a great deal to recover medical bills.
        I have left the field, the pay is bad but still help family members with their billing issues I am in fact dealing with my own. Every month I have called this Dr’s office to remind them my daughter has two insurance companies and that they have only filed with one. Problem is the other insurance is provided by her father, my ex-husband and I can not speak to his insurance company. I am in court to obtain a Qualified Child Medical Support order but until then I just have to remind them to bill his company. They have the billing information just don’t seem to follow through. Medical offices should also be held more responsible to file within a timely manner if they are contracted. There should be a penalty to them, but patients have no recourse to report such matters. I have no issues with her Dr and know by having had work with him he has nothing to do with the billing department.
        I am almost done with an accounting degree. I miss helping the patients, it was something that gave me a great deal of pride. We would be in a lot bettter shape if competent medical billers were more valued by the medical offices they worked for, I know my patients miss me .

        • Wayne Garrity

          My mother was taken by ambulance to Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey in November 2012; the bill was $2,500.00 for the ” medical treatment” and transportation to this hospital. I have been sending elderly relatives and friends to this hospital for 17 years and I have never seen a biil like this.

    • Cassandra Ferrell

      I got sick from a Federal workplace toxic environment. It was so bad that we had to be evacuated after inhaling sewer gas for years. I had to be hospitalized for it. The Department of Labor paid some small bills but not the big hospital bill. I could not afford to pay it and I was told by the DOL 4 years later that I should not have been responsible and my case was accepted. The damage was done and it negatively affected every financial aspect of my life even til this day. I was not compensated. I guess they don’t have to settle claims in a timely manner and Federal workers comp did not save me from harm.

    • Julie G

      I am wondering if I have any recourse against the following situation: I went to the emergency room at a hospital that was listed as a PPO on my insurance and saw a Physicians Assistant for a fairly uncomplicated procedure. I found out AFTER I received my bill that I was treated by an off network medical group. If I had been on network, my bill would have been $66, but this off network provider is insisting that I should pay $367. I would not have gone to this emergency room if I had known I would be charged off network fees. Apparently I signed a statement where the possibility of off network care was in the fine print. I feel that I should have been informed that the Physicians Assistant was not providing care under the umbrella of the hospital. I have tried speaking with the hospital, the off network group, and my insurance company, to have these fees reduced, but have not been successful. In any other business, this would be considered fraud! I have not paid this bill (from June 2011) and have not been rebilled for several months. At this point, I am expecting to hear from a collection agency in the future. Do you have any advice for me?

      • deborah

        Sounds to me that locating the hospital Ombudsman and having them help you with the situation is a great idea just to be sure they did not turn it over to collections. Get it in writing from them (the medical facility) that the bill has been deleted/resolved/overturned.

      • JStevens

        The Physician Assistant (PA) that treated you has no control over which insurance companies the hospital participates with. The PA is an employee getting a salary, just like everyone else, and works for the medial group. You need to check your insurance’ company’s web site in advance to see which hospitals they are contracted with, just like private medical offices.

        BTW, no such thing as a “Physician’s Assistant”. That job title does not exist.

        • Gerri Detweiler

          I beg to differ on both points. Julie’s situation was that she went to a participating hospital and was seen there by a non-participating physician’s assistant. Are patients supposed to grill every single professional that sees them at the hospital to find out if they participate? What about patients in emergency situations who may not even be capable of asking that question? It doesn’t seem unreasonable that a patient who goes to a participating hospital would assume that the services they receive there would be covered, especially in emergencies where there is no opportunity to get pre-certification before treatment.

          Also I have a family member who is a Physician’s Assistant and his title is indeed “Physician’s Assistant.”

    • Alec

      My 18 yr old son had to go to the ER a while back and ended up being admitted to the hospital for a couple of days. He is on my wife’s insurance policy. The dr that treated him sent the bills to my son but he has no job and could not pay, so the bills were sent to a collection agency. Of course the collection agency could not get payment. Now my wife has received a notice from the agency claiming that she owes the debt. She signed no paperwork and had nothing to do with the debt. Are we resonsible for the portion of the bill that the insurance did not pay?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I am not certain of the answer on this one. If he was under 18 then I would say, yes, she probably is responsible. But not sure here…hopefully one of our readers can weigh in!

        • SHE

          I’m also interested in this one as I have a young adult son myself (> 18 yrs). I don’t have any bills on his behalf but I see this situation as able to hit anyone with grown children. the collection agencies are going to call anyone and everyone (get multiple calls on my phone for people that have never lived at my address). Must we always go to a lawyer to get these answers.. is there no other way?

          thanks much.

    • Kat F

      One thing that I really hate about medical bills is what you have to go through to get accurate numbers. No insurance meant that a hospital stay came out of my pocket- and it was going to be over 5000 dollars if I paid the original bill. Since that seemed high for observation, two blood tests, and hydration, I insisted on an itemized bill. The bill came with numbered codes. I had to go back and have them translate it for me. Worth the effort though… found 3 charges for what boiled down to the same thing- one was the room charge, one was the post stay cleaning charge, and one was for disinfecting the room. Found a charge for 100 dollars for “antiviral measures” which turned out to be a name for putting tissue in the room. I found I’d been charged for hospital food, even though I had provided my own food, and notified the nurses well in advance that they would not need to order a tray for me. Finally, I found charges for 3 tests that had never been done. Between those errors, and using those errors as a stepping off point to argue for a lower bill, I got out for less than 1500.

      If you find out you have a medical bill, ask for itemization, ask for information, and ask for the Ombudsman. An Ombudsman is a part of a hospital who is required to stay impartial, and can often help you fight outrageous billing errors.The best way I’ve found to reduce medical debt is by getting on the phone, staying on the phone, and staying calm. It’s actually really funny to hear billing departments get increasingly panicked when you stay on the line, calm as ever, and demand the information in a way a reasonable person can understand, and insist that they need to make sense.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Kat –

        What a great story. Congratulations on figuring this out and getting your bill negotiated down. You may also enjoy the story I wrote about negotiating a big hospital bill – sounds like an experience very similar to yours. Good tip about the ombudsman as well. Thanks for sharing this!

      • perla

        Thank you Kat F. I will do that now. I had no idea you could ask for itemization. A $25,000 ER is outrageous so I will ask for itemization. And thank you for relaying this especially the part of staying calm. I’m Puerto Rican and everyone thinks I’m always yelling, in which I’m not, were just loud people, so I will take it to heart and lower my voice and stay calm. The best advice I’ve read. Kudos to you

        Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, A single mom

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    • http://google cathy

      my son and i were the victims of a 2 pit-bulls attacks a couple years ago . the fighting pit bulls were owned by the local fire-chief . third bite for each . i defended my son and wound up with being knocked unconscious for over 45 minutes . i suffered severe TBI . the fire chief deliberately called 3 private ambulances . i was sent 3 bills –with fees –when i objected they sent the bills to a collection company . i never got a penny from the fire chief . i paid hard dollars to the private ambulances . i paid my hospital bills , the doctor told me i could never do math again . i cannot fully use my mind to this day or work normally . the fire chief fought me legally –he gets 6 figures a year . i had no money after a short time .

      • deborah

        That’s when you get a cut-throat lawyer like “Sam Bernstein – Michigan” who agrees to being paid when the settlement happens. Guess what? He always gets paid and there is always a settlement or trial. You had it in your court to sue him. For medical issues the time you have is 2-10 years past the date of incident/treatment. I say find a lawyer and see if you can reclaim your losses plus physical damages. Hint: every job requires math skills. Good Luck

        • Michele

          Cathy, please take Deborah’s advice and go see an attorney that specializes in accidents with injuries. You owe it to yourself and your son, you deserve a settlement and the fire chief should pay for his negligence. Don’t let him get away with this. You should also be eligible for Social Security Disability, if you can no longer work at normal capacity.

          Your son will also have insurance when you get on SSD. You will need to hire a lawyer to get the SSD, I’m certain “Sam Bernstein, Attorney at Law” or whoever you choose to hire will be happy to help you with the SSD process as well. You need a lawyer to get it, it’s another racket, but it’s better than nothing or struggling to get by on crappy minimum wage jobs.

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    • Lynn

      If you owe a bill to a dr or hospital they fully expect you to pay an ungodly amount of money, the part your insurance doesn’t cover, ALL AT ONCE!! I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t have thousands of dollars just sittin in a bank somewhere just waiting for a medical bill that needs to be paid. On the other hand, if you are due a refund of over payment or you pay and the insurance reimburses you then it takes forever to get your money, but they want theirs within 10 days!! REALLY?!!!

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Really indeed!

    • Ali

      I have two such items: (1) a hospital appeared on my credit report. I lived at the same address for the two years that followed, filled in the insurance paperwork and never received a bill for over 2 1/2 years until I had moved and then got harrassed by a collection agent and took the hit on my credit even though the hospital could have contacted me anytime during those 2.5 years since I lived at the same place during that time and I never heard a peep. (2) another bill that was from an auto accident, I submitted to my auto insurance company who paid other bills, said they would pay it, but let it slip through the cracks and I did not find out about it until about 6 years later when I happened to pull my credit report and had another reason to go back to that healthcare provider. The latter bill I would have gladly paid (it was only for about $140). In both of these cases, I no longer had the same insurance company (health for 1 and auto for 2) and so the insurance companies said that I could not have them re-evaluate an old claim that had not been paid since too much time had gone by and they had no reason to be nice since I now have another insurance company. Hence, I was stuck with either the bill that probably would have been covered by insurance if timely submitted by the hospital or left to take the credit hit. Luckily, this year enough time has passed that all of this goes off my credit report. In one instance a hospital tried to proffer up promissory notes that they alleged I signed agreeing to pay the amounts … those were forged or otherwise concoted because it was definitely not my signature nor did I have any knowledge of them. Sometimes the hospital deserves not to get paid though in this case for their poor judgment because they did not give me any medication but yet chose to run an exhaustive set of tests on me, including because I am a female, an $800 pregnancy test. They should eat the bill and just learn to go to the grocery store and get a $10 EPT test in the future rather than creating bills that were unnecessary under the circumstances (minor auto accident) and outrageous.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        A relative who is in her late 70s found a pregnancy test on her medical bill. Needless to say, she disputed it.

        Be sure to let your legislators know about your experiences.

      • jae

        I felt compelled to reply about the $800.00 pregnancy test. I work in medicine, and I can tell you that the $800.00 you were billed for the pregnancy test, was a test that probably cost $3.00 to $5.00. That is how hospitals work. It is a disgusting practice. I, myself, paid $1800.00 for a set of crutches, not knowing that that was what the bill was for. I raise heck when I found out, but by then it was too late.

    • Norm Tucker

      had a slip an fall accident.. Taken by ambalance 11 miles to the hospital got the bill from the ambalance $1,850.00.. That is robbery… Since I have no insurance they will not work on the amount due. And as far as the Hospital $8000.00.. What is everbody on drugs or what As far as my credit dont care I use cash.. Rather not pay the almost $10,000 bill and have bad credit then pay and have good credit. In this ecomony I cant beleive they will not work with me and I do not talk to collections agencys so start righting it off to bad debt.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Crazy isn’t it? My guess is that they’ll be more open to negotiation once the bills have gone to collection. Of course, at that point your credit scores will have taken a beating.

        • michelle

          Be careful with settling for less than the amount owed with a collection account. You think they are giving you a good deal, but that just means that it will state “closed/settled for less than amount owed” and in turn they can report this as “key derogatory”.

      • perla

        This is ridiculous. I was working part time in 2008 when I started having such pain that I was doubled over and had to go to the ER. I had not insurance so the minute they found out I had no insurance they basically kicked me out without knowing what was causing this pain, 5 days later I was back in the ER, the Doctor there was upset that the first time I was basically kicked out for no insurance he stated that he would find out what was wrong. After everything it turned out to be ovarian cysts that were bursting. I went to welfare and applied because the hospital admit person said to get on medicaid cause I was only working part time, well Welfare denied me because I made $17.00 to much a month, now I have a $25,000 + bill and the collection agencies won’t leave me alone. I have daughter who is Autistic so working full time and caring for her is just impossible. So to Norm Tucker I feel the same way, they can send me to collections I’d rather have bad credit for 7 years then give them any money because what they charge is highway robbery, it’s outrageous. How can a single mother with a Autistic daughter afford to pay this bill. Something needs to be done for people that don’t have insurance. I’m working pt 4 hours a day and they expect me to pay it off, they won’t even work with me so to them I say, ” When my money tree is in full bloom, I will pay”

        • Gerri Detweiler


          Did you try to find out whether you were eligible for financial assistance from the hospital? Hospitals aren’t always good about publishing this information, but they are required to do so under the Affordable Care Act. (You’ll need to go directly to the hospital for this – the collection agency won’t be able to help you with it.) Here’s an article about this that may help: Can Obamacare Keep Debt Collectors Out of Hospitals?

        • Julie

          Hi Gerri,
          In April 2012, I had excrutiating pains around my abdominal area while I was at work. Immediately, I knew it had to be another ovarian cyst that burst. Back in 2007, I went through the same pain and had to get surgery immediately because I had too much blood leak to my lungs. This time, I automatically assumed it was the same problem because the pain I felt was too familiar. So I left work to go to the ER in the state of New Jersey where I am from. I did not make it to the hospital because I felt so fatigue, dehydrated, and weak. I called my bf to get me and he rushed me to the ER. At the time, I was working for a temp agency who provided me with “horrible” insurance. Just like others, I didn’t realize how bad the insurance really was until I had to go through this mess. My annual limit for both impatient & outpatient benefits covered only $5,000. Outpatient benefits only covered $2,000. However, I was admitted via the ER and I was never told that I was underinsured or given any financial advice for that matter. To make a long story short, my insurance (Essential Staffcare) only covered $2,000 and left the remaining balance for me to take care of. I now owe $21,000 ($19k to hospital and $2k for my surgeon.) While I was applying for Charity Care, I notified the hospital that I was applying for financial assistance since I was underinsured so they wouldn’t send me to collections. After waiting months to get a reply (numerous attempts to follow up on my end), they finally told me that I was was declined because my income was too high (they only looked at my paystubs during that time). So I contacted the hospital and was waiting for a return call. When they finally returned my call, they said that my account already went to COLLECTIONS! I showed them my good faith in trying to get this matter resolved and they send me to collections? Can they do that? I immediately called the collections office and worked out a payment plan with them- only $25 monthly. I don’t think it’s fair at all when I paid weekly $20 weekly for my insurance and now I am responsible for a payment of $21k due to an emergency surgery. When I called the hospital billing office again to discuss, she told me to work it out with the collections office. She wanted me to ask them if they could do an adjustment. This I do not understand. Do collection office have the ability to do that? Can’t the hospital make the adjustments or is it too late since it went to collections? Is there a fair pay discount or self pay discount for those who are underinsured in the state of nj. I am a single 28 year old with a mortgage, 2 school loans, a car loan, credit card bills, along with other expenses. Do you have any advice Gerri? I would very much appreciate it. Thank you. Happy New Year!

          • Gerri Detweiler

            Julie –

            I don’t have any simple solutions for you, but I would recommend you do a couple of things. First, you probably were overbilled for some of the services you received. That’s very common. Read this article: Big Hospital Bill? Negotiate! If you can get the amounts reduced that might help but it might not solve the problem.

            Secondly, I’d encourage you to look into appealing your request for financial assistance. Clearly the person you are dealing with doesn’t want to be bothered. (To be fair, she’s probably handling hundreds of billing cases and not being paid that well for what she does!) So you need to go higher up. That’s going to require some research on your part. You ‘ll find more information in these articles: The Ultimate Guide to Solving Your Medical Bill Problems.

            Finally, I would encourage you to at least meet with a bankruptcy attorney to find out what your options are if you can’t get these bills reduced. Making token payments to a collection agency on such a large debt isn’t going to solve the problem. You could be sued, and if you are, then you may face wage garnishment and more.

    • Nellie Gary

      My doctor misdiagnosed me and I am on the cusp of receiving a massive amount of medical bills because of her folly. I am looking to sue my doctor for malpractice. I cannot afford to pay the impending bills and feel that she should be liable to paying them since her actions caused my hospitalization. Does this have any bearing whatsoever on how my bills should be handled?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        If you are thinking of suing the doctor, I’d recommend you talk with an attorney before you start negotiating these bills.

    • Mary Hunt

      Great piece, Gerri. This is information that everyone need to know and understand. Thanks!

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Thanks so much!

    • Adrian Sellerd

      This is a great bill. This story is exactly what happen to me – did not know nothing. About a dr bill until I tried to re-fi my house it was a total nightmare/daymare and I had to decline the re-fi because the interest rate was so high because of a medical bill and to top it off the dr that sent it to collections I have been going to her for over 30 years she did not say a word about that situation please pass this bill like last century!

      • Gerri Detweiler


        You may want to let your legislators know about what happened to you and how you feel about this bill. Visit Senate.gov to contact your Senators and House.gov to contact your Representative.

    • http://msn debbie

      I have a medical bill for an ambulance, aprox. 900.00, as a result of a traffic accident in the state of CA that was not my fault. I was hit by an uninsured motorist, who has no assets to collect. I submitted this bill to my medical insurance. Apparently, this bill for some reason was not paid by my insurance. This was almost 2 years ago. Will I become my responsible ty to pay this out of my own pocket? And can I prevail if taken to court?

      • Gerri Detweiler


        It’s hard to say but I wouldn’t just cross my fingers and hope nothing happens. The stories we are getting from consumers show that these things can pop up at any time. I would suggest you contact your insurance company to find out why they didn’t pay it and to ask how it can be appealed.

      • Lora Givens

        Get a good lawyer and turn the bill over to your auto insurance company and they will make them pay.

      • Vic

        Check your auto insurance. There may be a way for them to pay the bill and then they can go after the dead beat.

        • know nothing

          this is why many states are adding a document making sure you’ve been informed about uninsured/underinsured motorists.

          if you get hit by someone without coverage to cover you, you claim on your UI. but if there’s no policy to subrogate against, or if the liability limit has been reached, your next step is civil court for a judgement. then the process of garnishing a wage.

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