Medical Debt, doctors office never submitted to insurance, turned to collections

by Tiffini S.
(Pekin, IL USA)

I had a surgery with a local physician. I incurred three different bills with that office. They submitted two of the bills to my insurance automatically. The third bill was never submitted. I did pay the first two co-pays when they came back on my EOBs.

With my bill payment system, I pay medical bills based on the Explanation of Benefits from my insurer, not the bills directly from the doctor. So I simply overlooked this bill. I probably tossed out the initial bill and waited for the EOB.

I NEVER received a second bill from this doctor, then I started getting collection calls from a local medical debt collector.

I confirmed that the third bill was never turned in to my insurance, then I contacted the doctors' office directly. The doctors office responded to two of my letters inquiring about the debt, but they kept sidestepping my request for a copy of the original bill so that I could simply submit it to my insurance on my own.

I refuse to acknowledge the collection agency, because this bill was handled improperly. I will not pay them, nor will I even contact them. The amount of money owed is likely not enough to garner a legal action (I used to work for a collection agency, so I'm fairly confident of this) and quite frankly I have the money to pay off the whole thing. However, I feel I should only pay my insurance co-payment amount and that the doctors' office owes me an explanation of not only why they failed to submit it as they did the other two, but also as to why it was not revoked from collections once they realized they made the mistake. I think that it's a small office with one billing person and she is now 'cranky' with me for pointing out her error (as I have politely done several times).

I would like to know if there is any legal recourse I can take against the doctors office for failing to submit this bill, and for subjecting me to a collector, when the initial issue is their own fault. Also, can I say anything at all to the collection agency to stop the calls and BIG RED LETTERS in the mail every week?

Comments for Medical Debt, doctors office never submitted to insurance, turned to collections

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Feb 22, 2010
unfair medical debt collection
by: Gerri

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

I agree with you 100%. The medical office's billing mistake should not hurt your good credit.

I would suggest you do one of three things:

1. Contact a consumer law attorney ( with experience in debt collection/credit reporting lawsuits to determine whether you have a case. If it is not feasible for you to pursue a legal case, there are two other approaches to consider.

2. Take the "Clark Howard" approach and picket outside the building. As Clark often advises his callers, standing outside the medical provider's office with a sign warning other patients that this medical practice unfairly ruined your credit reports may get some results quite quickly. Just make sure you find out what the rules are in your community regarding picketing. (You might also try calling a local consumer or business reporter to see if they are interested in a story. We would be happy to help with that!)

3. Send a certified letter to the medical office insisting they take the account back from the collection agency, and specifically instruct the collection agency remove it from your credit reports. Give them a reasonable period of time to comply and, if they don't, take them to small claims court.

You may also be interested in knowing that last summer Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilpatrick introduced a bill to protect consumers from unfair credit reporting due to medical bills. If you support
H.R.3421 The Medical Debt Relief Act of 2009
contact your elected officials in Washington.

Please let me know what you decide to do, and what happens!

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