Understanding Your Rights Regarding Outstanding Medical Bills
You are far from alone if you have medical bills that you can't pay. Nearly 137 million Americans have outstanding medical debt. An astonishing amount of bankruptcies filed in the US involve unpaid medical bills; it's estimated to be a factor as high as 66.5% of all bankruptcies. The weight of these bills can cause significant stress, which can further affect your health. It's even worse when the collection letters and calls start rolling in. Understanding your rights regarding outstanding medical bills can help you manage the stress and protect your interests when the collection calls and letters start to roll in.
Negotiating Medical Debt
Everything is negotiable. You can negotiate insurance rates, payment terms, and even the amount owed with your health care provider. Always check bills for errors and ensure that you were not billed for services that were not performed.
It is also imperative to make sure that your insurance provider has paid for covered services. You are in the strongest position to negotiate if you take action before your bills start to back up.
Dealing with Collection Agencies
Debt collectors are trained to coerce you into paying. However, you don't have to feel intimidated or pressured to forgo your rights when they contact you.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides the following protections:
- You have the right to receive proof of the debt in writing. This documentation must include the amount owed and the name of the creditor you owe.
- You have the right to dispute the amount and validity of the debt. The collection agency is required to respond to your dispute within 30 days of receiving it.
- Collection agencies cannot contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Collection agents cannot threaten, harass, or otherwise seek to intimidate you. They cannot threaten physical violence, deportation, negative job consequences, etc.
- Debt collectors cannot contact friends, family, employers, or co-workers about your debt.
Finally, be careful about making payments on "zombie debt" that a creditor claims you owe. Once a statute of limitations on the medical debt expires, you are no longer liable for the debt. In Texas, the statute of limitations on medical debt is four years.
Contact Welmaker Injury Law at (800) 494-1916 to schedule a free consultation regarding your claim. We'll help you understand your rights and help you determine the best ways to manage your outstanding medical bills.