Medical Bill Went To Collections Even Though I Never Received it.

Medical SymbolAnyone who has been reading My Two Dollars for the past 6-7 months or so has probably read about the medical issues I had going on and the post I wrote about how many bills I was getting from various doctors and hospitals. Luckily, it looks like I am in the clear from what they thought I had… but I have a folder about the size of an encyclopedia full of bills, and I am now up to over $5,000 in paid medical invoices. However, in between all the ones I did receive, one of them never made it to my door…and instead of contacting me and asking me about the one single bill that they did not get paid for, the hospital instead sent the bill to a collections agency – who then proceeded to start calling and sending threatening letters about my credit being damaged. Like Five Cent Nickel who had an experience kind of like mine, this was the first time I had ever gotten a collections notice – and I was not too happy about it. Especially seeing as it wasn’t my fault that the bill wasn’t paid!

How a hospital can think I all of a sudden became a deadbeat is beyond me, as I had already paid them over $4,000 in medical bills…did they really think I was going to skip out on that $141? Really? They have my phone number and they obviously have my address, as they have been sending me bills since November, so it should have been very easy for them to just contact me and let me know that they had not received payment as of yet. Very strange indeed. I called the hospital and all they told me was that they had sent the bill once and since it had not gotten paid, they turned it over to collections 38 days past it’s due date. Talk about hurrying up the process!

Luckily, the collections agent, once I spoke to her, was very nice. The woman told me that nothing gets reported to the credit bureaus until 30 days after they notify their clients and don’t hear back…but since I had called them 2 days after I got their letter, nothing was going to appear on my credit. I paid the bill with my credit card and I am done with the collections agency…but truth be told, they were a lot nicer than the hospital staff was.

I don’t know how unorganized or older people deal with their medical bills when they have something major going on. I have stacks of paper from my insurance company that sometimes match up to the stacks from the hospitals, which sometimes match up with the stacks from the doctors themselves. Double bills arrive all the time, when payments cross in the mail and I have to figure out what percentage of this latest bill was already paid and what percentage wasn’t. I am very organized, and it has been difficult for me to keep track of this stuff. I cannot imagine what it would be like for some other people. There has to be an easier way to do this…and maybe that could start with not sending people to collections for bills that are only 38 days overdue by no fault of their own!

Photo by takomabibelot.

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Comments (15)

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  1. michelleh says:

    I had this happen to me too. I thought it was just that our local hospital was inefficient. I got a bill from a collection agency for a charge that was 1 year and 9 months old! I never recieved any bill from the hospital at all and had assumed that my insurance covered it. What a shock to get a letter from a collections agency!We’ll be praying for your health.

  2. I suggest a call and/or letter to some higher-ups at the hospital. This is just plain lazy on the part of billing and a bad customer service policy.

  3. mjmcinto says:

    My only run-in with a collections agency came from an apartment my wife and I lived in shortly after getting married. We moved out at the end of our lease, and bought a house. Within 30 days of the lease ending, we recieved a letter from a collections agency! Yes, you heard that right, they never sent us a bill, just direct to collections. How that’s legal is beyond me (I contacted the attorney general’s office b/c I was PISSED, and the wouldn’t do anything). I called the collections agency and was trying to figure out what the charge was for, they couldn’t tell me, and it was like pulling teeth to get the complex to tell me. After a long time, they (the complex) finally provided me w/an itemized bill (which the lease stated I’d receive w/in 45 days of moving out, so why did I get a letter from collections in less the 30???).

    The charges were crap, and didn’t follow the lease. Complete crap, and my wife’s credit rating took a hit (luckily it was already great, so it got knocked down to ok).

  4. Marie says:

    Unfortuanetly this is fairly common. The hospital was way rude to me. We moved next door apartment wise and they had been sending bills to an address 40 miles away for the past 8 months. They wanted to know my last date of residence 40 miles away. How obvious is it that you don’t move 40 miles back and forth when you are moving next door? It was a nightmare to get it settled. And like you it was just one of the many bills I was getting from the hospital.

  5. Mrs. Micah says:

    We had a double bill for insurance just recently. We had to pay a retroactive bill and then a proactive (or whatever the opposite of retroactive is) one. When the 2nd arrived, it showed charges for the first as well. Fortunately, I knew what it was right away and there were no problems.

  6. Wade Young says:

    Make sure to check your credit to make sure it doesn’t show up. Collections people sometimes lie. http://www.annualcreditreport.com — it’s free.

  7. […] My Two Dollars – Medical Bill Went To Collections Even Though I Never Received it. […]

  8. This happened to me, but not with a hospital bill, with a lab bill. I was at the lab for several days in a row with my newborn for blood draws, but one bill never made it to me because it had the wrong address on it. And, like you, the collections people were very nice about it did not negatively impact my credit.

  9. stngy1 says:

    Happened to us too. One was semi-legit, the other way wrong. I have a theory that hospitals (hey I was a nurse for ages) go after -intensely- people they think will pay up. They do get a lot of deadbeats and uncollectible bills, so they overcharge and enthusiastically go after the rest of us. Rather like a bully.
    I’ve learned to go through bills from medical practices, labs, hospitals, etc with a fine tooth comb, AND compare what my insurance EOB says I owe and what I’m charged. There have been real discrepancies. I have sent more than one “strongly worded” letter demanding detailed bills, I’ve disputed charges, threatened to report them to the insurance company, and basically told them to STOP. It’s worked so far, but what a hassle–just when you don’t need it. Our medical expenses typically exceed $4k/year, so I get plenty of practice.
    Don’t forget there is a time limit for collecting on a bill, but if you pay even a portion of it (whether you think its a mistake or not), the clock gets reset.

  10. Zee says:

    I had a similar thing happen too: a bill I’d never received was sent to collections. The only twist was, it went to collections *6 years* after the service was rendered. My credit was fine for years and then I tried to take out a loan for something and the bank called to ask if I knew I had a bill in collections. I didn’t know that since the item wasn’t there when I’d checked my credit report two months earlier! When I called the hospital, they said they’d sent me a bill right after my hospital stay, and then heaven knows what happened for the next 6 years, and suddenly I owed an amount to a collections agency for 4 times what the original bill was.

    And, of course, when I called the collections agency they didn’t care I’d not received the original bill: all they knew was that they’d paid for this CURRENT bill and wanted their money. I eventually negotiated a settlement with them for something over the original bill but much less than what they wanted me to pay and it got taken care of, but it was a total nightmare for several weeks there.

  11. david says:

    Thanks for the all the comments guys, it’s good to know that some of us are in the same boat by no fault of our own!

  12. […] It’s surprising how many collections letters are sent out by mistake (at least, the bill hasn’t been received…or it hasn’t been received (again)…or it’s already been paid). Normally […]

  13. Ashley says:

    SO, I was in a car accident in February of 2009. (almost a year ago). long story short, was the other person’s fault, I settled, got money to pay the hospital, etc. Had several things happen during the course of the year that led me to have to spend that saved money from the insurance co. Meanwhile… Hospital bill NEVER made it to my house. yet… was told it bounced back and forth through two auto insurance companies, both denying (of course, expected) to pay. My boyfriend’s (the owner of our car) policy said they’d pay for the bill, which of course, never happened. so it was up to me to pay it. Spoke to someone saying they’d send me something to sign agreeing for a 12 month payment plan in october. Never got the bill. Again was told id be sent something (with a 40% discount because I was ”uninsured”, and paying out of pocket) in mid December. Still no agreement came in the mail. Got a call back January 4th (today) saying oh, there’s a problem, you settled with the auto insurance company, you can only get 25% off your bill now) WHAT?! I told the kid on the phone the first time I spoke with him (it’s so far been 3 times up to jan 4th I’ve spoken to him) that i had to use my settlement money and nay payment plan we would work out would be awesome. I guess now my question is; isn’t there a certain time in Florida when a bill become void, you don’t have to owe on it, if the billing dept. screws up like this? Or, shouldn’t I be allowed to contest this screw up in court because I’ve been told 3 or 4 different things to this point?!
    Any information would be awesome. Or even where to visit for information. I’ve searched, and I know laws like this exist…but I am in Ohio, so obviously I know different laws exist for different states. Oh gosh… we’ve all had such nightmares with stupid hospitals!

  14. John says:

    You can list your used or unwanted equipment on medwow marketplace for free.

  15. Jason says:

    Here’s a great list of thing you can do to prevent being overcharged in the first place at a hospital.

    – If possible, call the hospital’s billing department ahead of time and ask them what you will be charged for a room and what that charge includes. If it doesn’t include something you might need, such as tissues, bring your own.

    – Ask your doctor to estimate your cost of treatment.

    – Bring your own prescription medications to avoid paying top price for medications purchased from the hospital.

    – If possible, keep your own lists of tests, medications, and treatments. Hospitals have been known to charge men for pregnancy tests and adults for newborn tests.

    – Never pay the bill before leaving the hospital. You may be told this is required, but it is not. Before paying your bill read it carefully, and compare it to the estimated costs you were given before being admitted.

    – Demand an itemized bill, and ask for a detailed explanation for any items you don’t understand. Don’t accept generic answers like “lab fees” or “miscellaneous fees”.