Filing on senior citizens

by Sheree
(Ft. Worth,TX)

My mother is 80 and my step dad is 83. He has been in the hospital several times in the last few years. My mom is telling me that the hospital has turned her account over to Citibank for collections and now they have called her and told her they are adding 15% interest a month on her unpaid bill. She has had so many doctor bills, hospital bills and ambulance bills that she cannot pay all in full.

My question is can they charge 15% interest on her bill and can they turn senior citizens over for collections when they just have Social Security as an income? The also said they could garnish her social security check that is a direct deposit to her bank account, surely that is not possible, is it???

Comments for Filing on senior citizens

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Apr 27, 2010
Medical debt on seniors
by: Gerri


Thanks for submitting your debt collection question on our Q&A page.

I am so sorry to hear what your elderly parents are going through. Unfortunately, medical bills are an enormous problem for many Americans and especially the elderly like your parents. And I don't have a straight answer for you because state laws often come into play here.

I have a lot of questions and concerns about what they are being told in terms of these debts. It may be legal for them to charge 15% on these past due debts (it wouldn't surprise me since most states don't have effective interest rate caps), but the bigger question is why they are being so aggressively hounded for these medical debts when they clearly don't have the ability to pay.

Were they given the option of applying for charity care? Why weren't their debts covered by Medicare? Were the debts inflated - in other words, were they charged rates that were higher than what they would have had to pay if they had insurance. You don't have to answer all these questions for me, but I think they're important questions for you to consider as you help them.

Generally, generally federal law prohibits creditors from garnishing Social Security for most types of debts. However, that doesn't mean that there haven't been situations where debt collectors have skirted the law. I would encourage you to consider consulting a consumer law attorney about this threat. It may well be illegal.

You can contact a local consumer law attorney with experience in debt collection cases. Find out how to get FREE or low cost legal advice about debt collection from a consumer law attorney here.

I know most older people I speak with don't even want to consider bankruptcy, but I am worried about your parents ability to pay these debts as well as the continued stress of these debts hanging over their heads. I believe it really would be a good idea for you to consider setting up a a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney to find out if that may be necessary in your parent's case.

Another option is to find out if there is a legal aid office in your area that offers help for this type of situation. There are some legal aid offices around the country that are doing terrific work helping low income consumers with medical debt problems.

Please let us know if you learn anything that we should be sharing with other readers.

Apr 27, 2010
One more comment
by: Gerri

My answer to your question was too long so let me add one more thought here.

I am glad you are trying to your parents through this and hope you come up with some solution that at least alleviate some of the stress they are experiencing. I would also encourage you to speak up to your state and federal legislators and let them know what your parents are going through. There have been some efforts to try to strengthen the laws when it comes to medical debts and collections, and your parents are a good example of why this needs to change.

Jul 30, 2010
Senior Citizen Credit Card Debt
by: Anonymous

Because of health issues, we have recently become involved in my in-laws finances in California and have found out that they have incurred over $30,000 in credit card debt...

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