I Never Got a Bill from My Doctor, Now I’m in Collections. What should I do?
When you get an unexpected collections notice, the first feeling is usually shock. That feeling is then replaced with anger when you consider the consequences it could have on your credit report. If you’re in this situation, here’s what to do:
Request an Investigation ASAP
You have 30 days to request a dispute or investigation once a debt is turned over to collections. Do this in writing right away. If you don’t respond, the collections agency will consider your debt valid making it harder for you to dispute in the future.
Agencies are required to follow up with your doctor before hounding you for money after you file a dispute. While research takes place on their end, ask your doctor and insurance company for your billing statements. Read through them carefully to hunt for errors you can further dispute.
Make Sure a Non-Profit Medical Provider Treats Your Fairly
Non-profit hospitals have to abide by certain billing practices in order to remain tax-exempt. One of the rules is making an effort to notify you of a bill or qualify you for financial assistance before using extreme methods to collect.
If you receive medical care from a non-profit, dig a little deeper to see whether the provider followed regulated billing practices. If not, you may have a solid reason to dispute the transfer of your account to a collections agency.
Handle Everything in Writing
Keep a detailed record of each call you place to collections, your health care provider and insurance. You need a paper trail in case you have to remember certain conversations.
If your debt is ultimately found to be valid, you may choose to agree on a payment arrangement or settlement with the collections company. Get all of these agreements in writing as well especially if you settle the debt for a lesser amount. You don’t want an agency in the future trying to collect on the remaining balance.
The agreement should state paying off the agreed amount means the debt is “paid in full” and it will appear as such on your credit report.
Don’t Agree to Pay Very Old Debt
The statute of limitations for debt varies by state. Some collections agencies make big money collecting on old debt of people unaware they’re no longer at risk of a lawsuit when it reaches a certain age.
If someone calls to inform you of a very, very old medical bill, ask for its age, a notice in writing and end the call. Then do some research on the bill before responding. Acknowledging you owe the debt or coming to a verbal payment agreement may restart the statute of limitations cycle.
Update Your Contact Information
If you didn’t get the bill or any calls from the doctor’s office, there’s a good chance the address they have on file is old or they don’t have an address at all. Update the contact information on your file with all providers to prevent missing bills in the future.
Monitor Your Credit Reports
There are many free places to get your credit reports. You can also get one credit report free annually from www.annualcreditreport.com. Use these resources to stay on top of any new accounts that pop up in case you don’t get a bill.
It’s not uncommon for medical providers to turn accounts over to collections without making a huge effort to contact patients. Going forward, always ask about the billing process and follow up after you receive treatment to make sure the bill is settled.
If you’re struggling to understand or dispute your bills, contact us!