Is a bill over a year later legal?

by Grace

I had to go to the emergency room because I was having trouble breathing. When I arrived I explained that I had no insurance and they offered an option to pay about $850 (I believe) for the service. I started to feel better just after I was admitted, so I signed the sheet saying I was leaving against their advice, and went home. A month or so later I got a bill for the bloodwork, which I paid in installments, even though I never received the results. Over a year later, I received another bill for over $720. Since I had already paid the hospital I called and disputed. The lady said ok, and she would pass it on to her supervisor. Now, another few years later I am receiving a letter from a debt collection agency. I am sending a written dispute, but what am I supposed to do? I never even actually saw a doctor. The debt collector says that the bill is for the doctor whom I never saw's time and if there was even a nurse present then it is valid. I believe the timeline was summer 2008 for the hospital, 2009 for the first bill, and now 2011 for the debt collection.

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Dec 20, 2011
Is a bill over a year later legal?

When you are in the emergency room, you don't necessarily see all of the people who care for you. Some of those individuals provide you with hands-on treatment, but others may interpret tests, review your chart and medical history, etc.. So, the fact that you received a bill for a doctor's care but do not remember ever seeing a doctor does not necessarily mean that the debt the collector is trying to collect is not valid. However, you did the right thing by disputing the debt since you are not sure that you owe it.

As to your question about receiving a bill more than a year after your visit to the emergency, sometimes it takes a while to get bills from hospitals and so the timeline you describe is not unreasonable nor does it invalidate the debt the collector wants you to pay, assuming it turns out to be your legitimate debt.

I recommend that you learn about California's debt collection law, which provides consumers with many protections. You can do that by purchasing a copy of the California edition of our ebook Debt Collection Answers, get our ebook Debt Collection Answers. Also, if the collector never responds to your validation request, or if you believe that the collector has violated your legal rights in some other way, you should contact a consumer law attorney for a free consultation by going here:
free consultation with a consumer law attorney. Good luck!

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