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Thread: Debt Collectors calling but I've never seen the bill

  1. #1
    WoofWoof is offline Junior Member
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    Debt Collectors calling but I've never seen the bill

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? MI

    Okay, so I had a hospital visit in Jan 2011. It wasn't serious but, because I was 8 months pregnant and they originally thought it was labor, I was in labor and delivery triage for about 12 hours. Lucky for all of us, everything ended up good.

    Anyway, about 9 months after that visit, I got a debt collections call for a bill from that date. I told the lady on the phone that I had never seen a bill from the hospital, let alone knew it had gone to collections. I had no idea about it and had thought that our insurance plus co-pay had covered it all. The lady was nice about it and said that they'd send out a bill. I then asked about what address they had, since we had moved since the baby was born and, while the new occupants are really good at giving us our mail that accidentally gets to their house, maybe something got lost in the mix. Sure enough, address was wrong. But not just wrong. She read off our old street number, with our old old apartment street and city (which we had not lived in since about 2008), and my parent's zip code. A mish mash of all my old addresses. I gave her the correct address, she apologized for the wrong address and agreed that it was probably the problem, and I went on my way.

    The bill never came. I probably should have noticed that, but I had a few other health issues going on.

    About 4-5 months after that, I got another call. Nearly the same as the first and, when I asked about the address, they once again read off the same wrong address. I once again gave them the right address, they apologized, and I went off on my way.

    Bill never came.

    4 months after that, same call, same wrong address. Once again, gave them the right address. The lady this time offered me to just pay it over the phone, but I declined, saying that since I never even knew the bill existed in the first place, I wanted to see it in writing.

    You guessed it. Bill never came.

    The calls come about every four months and now they aren't even offering to mail me a physical copy of the bill. They keep telling me to "just pay by credit card over the phone and they'll go away" and other stuff like that. Or they accuse me of lying.

    I don't have a problem paying the bill. I really don't. But I don't like paying for things over the phone to an unknown and I'm quite a bit more hesitant to pay a bill over the phone, one that I've never even seen, to a company that can't even seem to get my address correct and send me something in the mail! We've never had a problem getting any mail and we're on time with all of our other bills. We get this stuff done in a timely manner. So what can I do from here? It doesn't look like it has hit my credit report yet, but I really don't want it to and have this whole situation get to that point.

    I did call the hospital, after the second call, to see if maybe they could tell me what was up, but the guy over the phone said that if it had gone to collections, it was out of their hands. He didn't sound too sure, but I had no reason to doubt him at the time.
  2. #2
    swalsh411 is offline Senior Member
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    You won't accomplish anything over the phone. Your choices are to either pay what they are asking, send them a letter asking for validation, or send them a letter saying not to call you anymore. Be sure to send it return receipt.
  3. #3
    WoofWoof is offline Junior Member
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    You won't accomplish anything over the phone. Your choices are to either pay what they are asking, send them a letter asking for validation, or send them a letter saying not to call you anymore. Be sure to send it return receipt.
    Thanks. I've never been down this road before, so I really had no idea how to proceed.
  4. #4
    tammy8 is offline Senior Member
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    Was it not turned into your insurance company?
  5. #5
    Bosco is offline Member
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    Here is what you need to do.

    Fire off a letter, certified mail, return receipt. In this letter you'll want to say that you're unaware of any debt owed to the medical provider, dispute it's validity and request validation up to and including a breakdown of the alleged debt coming directly from the medical provider. I'd also throw in some remarks about your dispute being "timely" as you never received the dunning letter notifying you of your rights under the FDCPA and discovered them through your own research. I'd also make note in the letter of their failure to have your correct address despite you providing it to them multiple times.

    Do that, and see what they come back with. If they refuse to provide you with what you ask for, they're shooting themselves in the foot and risking the loss of their right to the claim.
  6. #6
    TigerD is offline Senior Member
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    My thoughts are in two parts: What you should have done and what you should do now.
    What you should have done:
    You knew you were at the hospital. You knew there would be a bill or at least a letter from your insurance company telling you what they were paying. When you didn't receive either of these, you should have contacted both your insurance company and the hospital.

    What you need to do now:
    1. Ignore Bosco. His advice will make it far worse for you. Right now there is a mix up. The CA has a hard time with innocent mistakes - especially in the touchy-feely world of medical collections. If you do what Bosco suggested, you are a professional debtor. The CA knows just how to deal with those.
    2. Contact the hospital's billing department. Inform them that you had a call from the collection agency and were concerned that the hospital didn't have the address correct. Ask if any of your other medical information had been sent to the wrong address. Ask for a copy of the bill -- this is best done in person. It may take a minute or two -- but if you are polite and firm, you will get the information. If you are unable to pay the bill in full, tell the hospital that. Be ready to disclose your financial information. You will have to prove you can't pay it in full. Most hospitals have in house payment arrangements or charity they can apply. You just have to ask.
    3. If you make an arrangement with the hospital -- follow it to the letter. If you absolutely can't make a payment - call them first.

    DC
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  7. #7
    You Are Guilty is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bosco View Post
    If they refuse to provide you with what you ask for, they're shooting themselves in the foot and risking the loss of their right to the claim.
    That's not entirely correct, and I suspect you know that. Just because someone asks for the sun and the moon in their validation request, a failure to provide them does not create a violation.

    My suggestion? "I dispute this bill. Please validate." Send it certified, RRR.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tranquility
    Once you get to crazy land, it is only a guess on how to get out.
  8. #8
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bosco View Post
    ...request validation up to and including a breakdown of the alleged debt coming directly from the medical provider.
    Hogwash - nothing of the sort is required for a debt validation.
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  9. #9
    WoofWoof is offline Junior Member
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    You knew you were at the hospital. You knew there would be a bill or at least a letter from your insurance company telling you what they were paying. When you didn't receive either of these, you should have contacted both your insurance company and the hospital.
    We expected the insurance to pay it all, minus our ER co-pay, which we had already paid when we were there. Our insurance company can be difficult to work with at times and are not always clear. Just three years ago, we had to fight them to cover a medical bill that they gave authorization for, but denied it later. It was a "fun" battle of paperwork. Anyway, that's partially why I want to see this bill, so as I can match it up to what our insurance statements say.
    I know we should have been more on top of this, but I guess my only defense is that it all happened around the time I gave birth. Doesn't excuse it, but it is what it is.

    The CA has a hard time with innocent mistakes - especially in the touchy-feely world of medical collections. If you do what Bosco suggested, you are a professional debtor. The CA knows just how to deal with those.
    I'm sorry, I don't quite understand what you're saying here.

    2. Contact the hospital's billing department. Inform them that you had a call from the collection agency and were concerned that the hospital didn't have the address correct. Ask if any of your other medical information had been sent to the wrong address. Ask for a copy of the bill -- this is best done in person. It may take a minute or two -- but if you are polite and firm, you will get the information. If you are unable to pay the bill in full, tell the hospital that. Be ready to disclose your financial information. You will have to prove you can't pay it in full. Most hospitals have in house payment arrangements or charity they can apply. You just have to ask.
    3. If you make an arrangement with the hospital -- follow it to the letter. If you absolutely can't make a payment - call them first.
    That I can do. And, just for clarification sake, this isn't a huge bill. We can certainly pay this, although our date night budget may be cut for a few weeks. I just don't like paying things that I haven't examined and can look over, to make sure that there aren't any mistakes. (Like perhaps our insurance dropping the ball on something, since we did expect them to cover this) It's just a personal preference of mine, one that I hope is reasonable in this case.
  10. #10
    Bosco is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by You Are Guilty View Post
    That's not entirely correct, and I suspect you know that. Just because someone asks for the sun and the moon in their validation request, a failure to provide them does not create a violation.

    My suggestion? "I dispute this bill. Please validate." Send it certified, RRR.
    I'm not talking about validation. Well, not entirely. And yes, I hate the "kitchen sink" validation letters as well and prefer to keep it simple.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zigner View Post
    Hogwash - nothing of the sort is required for a debt validation.
    Well first, I'd suggest you learn the difference between "request" and "require." Your closest dictionary can assist you in this matter.

    Second, I don't have much desire to sidetrack the OP's thread with a debate about validation (you can start a separate thread and I'd be happy to discuss it there, especially since I just had to educate you on the SOL of repo deficiencies) but I'd point out that this is a slightly murky issue, for a whole host of reasons. There is actually a FTC Letter (the Wollman letter, to be exact) that supports my side, along with a good amount of case law in the Chaudhry, Guerrero and Graziano cases (among others) which also support my side and reject the "name of OC and amount = validation" theory. There is, of course, some case law on the other side as well.

    Ultimately, however, I think the validation debate is going to come to an end rule soon. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is getting rule making authority over the FDCPA and I imagine this is one of the first things they address, and it will certainly be consumer friendly.
  11. #11
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bosco View Post
    I'm not talking about validation.

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