Every mom in the world is quick to point out to their kids that life isn't fair, but the idea that a medical emergency--something you have no control over--can make lenders consider you just as high
|Medical debt can go to collections|
Some Medical Bills Go Directly to Collections
Hospitals are accustomed to billing insurance companies. If you don't have insurance (and yes, there are still plenty of people out there without it) the hospital is supposed to bill you directly. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Sometimes billing errors (or pure unadulterated carelessness) result in you not receiving your bills but sometimes, hospitals send your medical bills directly to a collection agency--without even attempting to get payment from you directly.
Why Hospitals Don't Contact You First About Your Bill
A hospital may send your bill directly to collections for a number of reasons. The primary reason, however, is convenience. To some hospitals, its worth paying the commission to the collection agency to not have to deal with your account. Billing you directly, negotiating the debt and working out a payment plan all require time and resources on the part of the hospital. It's much easier to simply send the bill directly to a collection agency and let debt collectors do all of the work. This is especially true if you have a coinsurance plan. Your coinsurance has already paid
Another reason a doctor or hospital may send your medical bill directly to collections is that this method robs you of the opportunity to dispute the bill. Medical collection agencies often put extreme pressure on you by giving you a set amount of time to pay the debt before they report the account to the credit bureaus. Once the account appears on your credit report, your credit scores suffer. This limited time frame in which to protect your credit scores doesn't give you the time you need to dispute a medical bills you believe is inaccurate--forcing you to choose between fighting for the correct amount or saving your credit scores.
What Can You Do to Prevent Medical Debts Going Directly to Collection Agencies?
Unfortunately, there are no laws requiring doctors and hospitals to notify you first before sending your bills to collections. Doctors and hospitals are original creditors. This means they aren't bound by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which governs the behavior of all third-party debt collectors.
The best way to ensure that your bills are sent to you rather than directly to a debt collector is to contact the doctor or hospital's billing department and ask about their policies. Make sure that your address is correct in their system and ask if you have any outstanding bills. If you do not, call back a week later and ask again. Keep in mind that, according to your insurance provider's policies, doctors and hospitals can wait up to a year after the date of service to bill you or your insurance company, so don't stop checking up on your debt until the billing office is willing to give you a zero balance statement, in writing, for the medical services you received. In the event a collector tries to collect the debt from you in the future, a zero-balance statement from the hospital is your greatest armor against the collection agency and any potential credit damage connected to your previous medical debt.
Keeping Medical Debt Out of Collections and Off Your Credit Report
Reader Question: Medical Collections Never Sent Bill