Can a medcial bill be charged to you after a time has passed?

by Tara

I was in the ER in Nov. 2003 and was recived a bill of almost 3,000 dollars. I was able to make small payments at frist. Then we ran into money trouble and couldn't. I recived a huge income tax refund and call becasue I lost the remaining amount and adress to pay it off. They told me I owed no money and had no name on file. Six years later Aug they call me saying I need to pay. I explained to them what I was told and they said they have on file they hadn't talked to me in years, and that no matter what I still owe the money. This also still does not show up on my creit report. I can't pay it becasue I now got a home loan and three kids. I though after seven years if they don't charge you and can't go after you for the money?

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Feb 13, 2012
Can a medcial bill be charged to you after a time has passed?
by: Debtcollectionanswers

When you owe a past due debt, there is no time limit on how long a creditor (or collector) can demand that you pay the money you owe. Time does not make an unpaid debt go away.

However, there is a limited amount of time during which a creditor (or collector) can sue you for the debt. That period of time is referred to as the statute of limitation (SOL). Each state establishes its own SOL for different types of debt. My resources show that in KA, the SOL for a written contract is 6 years and for verbal contract and credit card debt the SOL is 3 years. I would assume that you signed paperwork when you were in the ER agreeing to pay the cost of your care, so the 6-year SOL would apply here. Therefore, since you incurred the debt in Nov. 2003, the SOL on it has expired and so you can no longer be sued for the money. However, the hospital IS entitled to send you demand letters and to call you demanding payment, and if it turns your debt over to a collection agency, the agency is entitled to do the same.

Please note that I am not an attorney nor am I an expert on the law in KA and that states sometimes change the SOL on certain kinds of debt. Therefore, if you want to be sure that the SOL information I have given you is still accurate, you should contact a consumer law attorney in your area.

You should also know that when the SOL on a debt has expired, if you admit to the creditor or collector that you owe the money or offer to make even a very small payment on the debt, you risk resetting the SOL. If you do, then you will have put yourself in jeopardy of being sued for the money you owe for another 6 years.

Assuming that I am correct that the SOL on your medical debt has expired and assuming your debt has been turned over to a collection agency I recommend that you send the agency a cease contact letter. Make a copy of the letter for your files and send the original via certified mail with a return receipt requested. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives you the right to send such a letter to a collector and upon it's receipt, the collector is legally obligated to stop contacting you. Unfortunately however, this law does not apply to an original creditor, like a hospital.

Finally, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives the hospital and/or the debt collection agency the right to report your account to the credit reporting agencies as past due for 7 years and 6 months after the first day that the account becomes past due. Given that you never paid anything on your medical debt and it's now 2012, the fact that the debt is past due can no longer be reported and so it should not show up in your credit files. However, how long a debt can show up in those files has nothing to do with how long you are legally responsible for paying the debt. As I indicated at the start of my answer, you are responsible for paying it indefinitely.

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