#1 Edited by Nocall (356 posts) -

This is a pointless rage post. You're probably best off not reading it.

In December, right before Christmas, I was told that there may be an issue with my liver after a routine check-up. As such, I scheduled some blood tests with the lab in the hospital in which my doctor practices. This is the first time I use that lab.

About a month passes and it turns out my liver seems okay, but I'll have to get it tested again in six months. The bills from the hospital come in, I pay them, and then I move on with my life.

Fast forward to April. I get a recorded voicemail on my phone claiming to be a debt collector. In the beginning, I ignore it, thinking it must be a phishing scam, because I don't have any debt. However, after doing an internet search of the company I find that it is a legit debt collector and one of their main clients is the hospital I use.

Apparently the bills I paid before were for the main hospital, while the Lab is a separate entity that resides in the hospital. After many phone calls I figure out that while all my information in the hospital's system is correct, my mailing address is off by one digit in the Lab's system--which means that the bill(s?) that the lab sent never made their way to my home.

I pay off the debt collector via a credit card over the web and save the "payment received" notification. I contact the hospital and express my dismay that they would allow such an event to occur -- despite the hospital itself having my correct address, and me always paying my bills from them immediately, the Lab couldn't apparently be bothered to ask them for my correct address once the bills returned to (I'm assuming, here) the billing center as "undeliverable" mail. Nor could they simply call me to try to verify my address, as the phone number they had in their system WAS correct. I guess it was just easier to call the debt collector.

So here I am with a red mark on my credit report because my address was wrong and no one bothered to correct it. A little while later, I get a letter from the main hospital that they're looking into the issue. Another week passes and I learn that the person who was transcribing my info into their computer system made a mistake and mistyped that one digit.

I ask if there's any way they can remove the debt note from my credit report and they said they'll look into it. Also, as I was paying a debt collector and not a medical establishment, I used my credit card instead of my HSA card to pay the debt. Due to this, I also ask them to send me a copy of the original bill so that I could get reimbursed from my HSA. They agree.

At this point, I think I'm done. Yesterday I get a bill in the mail from the lab. It's for the same amount that I already paid the debt collector. The bill is dated, and, from the looks of it, it seems that the charges were subtracted from the bill back in march ("to debt collector") but then added back to the bill on the same day that I had the conversation with the Lab billing person.

I think that there's two possibilities:

  1. This is simply the bill copy that I requested, and I shouldn't have to pay it.
  2. Someone screwed up and, in the process of trying to make a copy, added the charges back to my account.

I checked my account online for the lab and it seems that #2 is correct -- I once again "owe" the lab for the liver panel.

I shake my head and sigh. I write another email to the billing person I was in contact with, and now I sit here, waiting and wondering how an organization could be so incompetient

That's all.

#2 Posted by CaLe (4040 posts) -

The concept of personally paying for medical expenses is beyond me, but I wonder, do you have to pay for it like this because you don't have medical insurance? If you had insurance would all of the payments automatically be taken care of?

#3 Edited by alwaysbebombing (1627 posts) -

Willkommen bei der USA!

#4 Edited by Chop (2000 posts) -

I have huge anxiety issues when it comes to finance and almost had a panic attack just reading your post.

Keep your head up, man. The fact that you aren't on the ground, balled up like an emotional turtle means you already have all the respect in the world from me.

#5 Posted by nophilip (163 posts) -

In my experience, debt collection agencies are just pretty shit in general. I work for an IT company and one of our customers is a debt collection agency. It's the saddest place I have to go to and all the people that work there all seem incredibly unhappy all the time.

Also, weird fun fact: the building is separated into two halves, two different call centers. All the men work on one side of the building and all the women on the other side. It's bizarre.

#6 Posted by Corvak (1162 posts) -

The sheer incompetence of the american health industry is unmeasurable.

Sure, power of the market, pay your own way, competition breeds efficiency, blah blah blah. But at this point, our government systems are actually more efficient than the US. All I ever see are care providers and insurers colluding to raise premiums.

So much for competition keeping people honest, i'll stick with my government services if this is the alternative. At least I can vote someone out of office if they piss me off.

#7 Posted by Nocall (356 posts) -

@cale: No, I actually have pretty decent medical insurance (not the best, but much better than I used to have). It took care of ~80% of the bill. The reason for the lag between service and payment is that the hospital has to contact your insurance, who then pay a portion of the bill, and then the hospital contacts you about paying the remainder. So to answer your question: yes and no. Yes, the insurance will "automatically" pay for whatever they cover, without me having to do any work, but "no" that there is still manual payments that I need to take care of after that.

@chop Believe me, I had a panic attack when I found out that a debt collector was after me. As someone who has had to previously deal with lawyers about money stuff--on the "good" end, mind you, as in seeking payment that I was owed--I have no desire to ever talk to any of the sleaze bags that work in the debt collection buisness. They are not good people, and just thinking about their attitudes and how they carry themselves makes me clench a fist.

#8 Posted by TheBlue (426 posts) -

The only experience I've ever had with debt collectors was with my student loans. One of the loans takes about 5 days to process my payment while the rest process my payments instantly, so that's pretty awesome and makes perfect sense. If I don't pay at least 5 days before it won't be considered late, but it doesn't show up that I payed until the date it's processed. So, one month I forgot until about a day before, then I started getting calls from a debt collector. I would get 4 or 5 calls per day just about every other hour. I ignored them at first because I didn't recognize the number, but after the sheer frequency of calls I looked up the number and discovered that it was a debt collector for my loan. I answered the next time and he told me that I owe the payment for that month. I told him that I already paid and after about 2 seconds he said, "Oh yeah, I see here that you did. Well do you want to add your home phone to our database?" I promptly hung up.

Long story short, bill and debt collectors don't bother to check any info they might have, they are just told to call people for money and proceed to do so like maniacs. It's...great.

#9 Edited by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

Ugh. I had a similar experience with a property management company a few years ago. Constant clerical errors on their end that resulted in very real and very troublesome financial issues for me that required a number of phone calls and mailed letters to iron out.

That last bit should hopefully get sorted out pronto.

Sorry. It sucks. I know. :(

#10 Posted by Cornelius85X (6 posts) -

Sorry to hear that. At my job I have to call debt collectors a lot. They can be really rude. Even their supervisors. And it seems as if the standards for running a collection agency are non-existent. I wish there were harsher laws in place for when they could call you, how often, etc. There's no accountability.

#11 Posted by Slag (4735 posts) -

ugh , I'm sorry man. Paperwork bureaucractic nightmares like that are the worst.

#12 Posted by UnlimitedSheep (33 posts) -

Similar thing happened to me when I had blood tests done. First my doctor's office mistakenly marked that I would be paying the full cost rather than going through my insurance. Then the lab never sent me a bill, and like you, they never bothered to call. I also thought the debt collector calls were scams since I'd no reason to think I had outstanding debts.

Much calling back and forth later, things got straightened out, and the black mark on my credit was taken off, so best of luck to you! I'm sure you'll get everything fixed up.

#13 Posted by rethla (736 posts) -

Any company/person can make these mistakes it has nothing to do with american healthcare. Also debt collecting is not a collective of evil minded scums its just another job with normal people getting along with their lifes just like yourself. If anything blame the people that dont pay their bills, if they did this line of work wouldnt be needed.

#14 Posted by AlisterCat (5712 posts) -

Free universal healthcare is fantastic. Really sucks for you.

#15 Edited by dudeglove (8159 posts) -

Vaguely reminds me of a time an Edinburgh collection agency was demanding money I didn't owe them for Glasgow council tax as a student. They had the most vile call centre staff.

#16 Posted by alwaysbebombing (1627 posts) -

@rethla said:

Any company/person can make these mistakes it has nothing to do with american healthcare. Also debt collecting is not a collective of evil minded scums its just another job with normal people getting along with their lifes just like yourself. If anything blame the people that dont pay their bills, if they did this line of work wouldnt be needed.

They are the worst human beings alive, and he did pay his bills.

#17 Posted by crithon (3441 posts) -

I'm in the same boat. Apparently, the Hospital, the Doctor and the Emergency van all have different billing departments and debt collectors. On top of that my new Medical Insurance hasn't come in. So it's a lot of avoiding, while waiting. I'm suppose to be okay, according to my new insurance, but still debt collectors need to lecture me about everything. I feel like I'm 13 again.

#18 Posted by ViciousBearMauling (1203 posts) -

Solution

Never go to the doctor, death is a surprise, life is exciting and cheaper.

#19 Edited by Dixavd (1367 posts) -

Someone in my family is facing the possibility of debt-collectors despite a complete mistake on their (Edit - the group who are threatening sending debt-collectors) end. The stupidest part is that they (Edit - my family member) don't own the house, nor almost anything in it, where they live. So the threatening implications of debt-collectors/bailiffs is actually a threat to the property of someone else. It shouldn't get that far, but it is pretty scarey for the person whose house it is.

#20 Edited by keyvin (34 posts) -

Don't worry. Medical collections are weighted extremely low in credit granting decisions. What really hurts is things that you had an agreement to pay in advance (credit cards, student loans). I had a $1,200 hospital bill in collections for three years because they wouldn't work out a reasonable payment plan with me (lol $300 a month). I financed $10,000 on an auto loan at a 2.99% rate. Toyota Motor Credit couldn't give two shits less about medical collections.

You have rights under the fair debt collections act. Always ask for verification. Tell them that all contact is to be in writing.

http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/help/fair-debt-collection-practices-act-6000.php