Received medical bill almost one year later

by melanie

I went to the hospital to get my older debts straightened out. The lady in billing told me I have one for almost $5,000 for an ER visit almost a year. My address changed. There are several procedures I didn't know I was having. I knew of one CT scan.

On the bill there are 3 other CT scans and a number of other things I didn't know of. She told me it is in collections. It is not reporting on my credit report. She gave me the number to the collection agency which is a lawyers office.

I haven't called the CA yet. I don't have $5,000 to pay at once. I can't afford large payments either. We are wanting to buy a home. I just paid all of my collections off. What should I do?

She told me I could pay the hospital. I didn't have to go through the CA. I never received the bill in the mail.

Reply from DebtCollectionAnswers.com:

Melanie,

It sounds like there are two separate issues here. One is the issue of whether or not your bill from the hospital is accurate. It may very well be wrong. Medical billing errors are not uncommon, and they often favor the hospital - not the consumer.

So the first thing you'll have to do is carefully scrutinize the bill and see if you need to research or dispute the bill that they say you owe. Unfortunately, that's beyond what we cover on this website, but you could check out this article for suggestions:

Big Hospital Bill? Negotiate!

The other thing you are dealing with is the fact that this bill has been sent to collections before you even got a copy of the bill. While that is clearly not fair, since it hurts your credit scores, it is not usually illegal. But it is not unreasonable for you to raise a stink about it.

Since the person at the hospital agreed to pull it back from collections, you should take her up on that. It's better that you work something out with the hospital than letting it hurt your credit reports as a collection account. We'd recommend you send a certified letter to the billing department at the hospital explaining that you never received a bill and your credit is now damaged as a result of their billing errors. State in the letter that you were told it could be taken back from collections, and you want them to do so to avoid damage to your credit.

If you can succeed there, then you'll still have to work on making sure the bill is right - and then figuring out a payment plan.

Unfortunately, patients have very few rights in these cases, although there are some new protections in the Affordable Care Act that may help.

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