I have little sympathy for most cases in which people rack up debt and try to escape the consequences, but Good Lord, the other side of that equation is shady as Hell, even when done far more legitimately than this.
In either case, first the hospital kept sending me bills with an account number that didn't match mine, and when I legitimately tried to pay it, they couldn't find me through account number lookup. This set off my suspicion, so I just kept asking for "proof of debt." Every time they sent it, some detail would be off, and I'd call them and tell them, and about a month later they'd send a new one with some new error.
This kept on, until the (fairly new) hospital moved its accounting office or something that caused them to really fuck up their records. I didn't hear from it for about 4 months until I got my first call from a debt collector. They really tried to hammer me on how they could work out a "deal" with me for reduced cost (I'm sure they probably paid 10% or something for my debt), so as usual, I asked for proof of debt.
It never came.
3 months later, another call, different agency. Proof of debt, never arrived.
3 months later, another call, ANOTHER DIFFERENT AGENCY. This time I just asked to be "added to their do not call list." They did.
Haven't heard from this bullshit in 5 months. I've checked my credit twice since then (once routine, once as a result of the equifax debacle), no sign of the debt. I guess I'm finally free?
The way debt collection works in the US is the debt collector has to prove you owe the debt, not the other way around.
Pay to delete is a sensible option in the case where you know the debt is legitimate.
In court, he claimed the hospital never provided proof of debt. The hospital claimed it did. The judge asked if they had proof of debt with them, right now. They did. The judge asked my friend if he was willing to pay it with proof of debt presented. He said he was.
Done and done. Orders were guarantee the debt is deleted upon payment, bunch of other weird legal stuff protecting my friend if it should appear on his credit report ever, etc.
You might want to empathize a bit more. Most debt is racked up because those medical bills you mention are legitimate, but can't be covered due to lack of insurance.
The other way is to make a purchase and then lose your job, at which point you can no longer sell your purchase and no longer sustain the payments.
It's a good reminder to write less pointedly, though. If you have any tips on writing style or favorite authors, I'd love to hear them.
I'd be surprised if this article didn't get discussed here on HN at the time.
(or if not, it's very helpful and worth a read)
Last time I talked to the hospital, I told them to please bill the insurance I had supplied them, and not continue sending me letters demanding I pay them $1250 for a procedure that the cash clinic across the street said they would do for 380 (that's including the 'uninsured discount').
The guy on the phone said it was too late because it had been nearly 90 days and 'the computer is sending it to collections in a couple days'. According to him, he couldn't do anything about that.
This actually is highly dependent on state laws. In Colorado for non-emergency the doctor/hospital has 6 months to file the bill with the insurance company. If they fail to do so, or file after that time period, the bill is null and void (it's an agreement they have with the insurance company).
If it is an emergency (such as you got taken to the ER) then they have a year to file with the insurance company.
I know this... because the insurance company denied a claim that was made by the hospital due to an emergency because it was filed outside the 6 month time window because the hospital failed to mark it as being billed due to an emergency.
I only found out about the debt though when I got served and there was a lawsuit against me because the hospital (even though they had a copy of my drivers license) had been sending it to an old address I hadn't lived at which they had on file somehow.
I got it all sorted, and the insurance company paid, along with a fine the state requires for failing to pay on time... however the lawsuit still dragged on for one more year.
The original company that had made the claim, had sold the debt to debt collection company. That debt collection company had never sent me a shred of proof, so their calls went straight to the round file, so the lawyers for the debt company were the people I was dealing with.
They wanted to get paid for the debt, so that they could then send it to the debt collector, who would then send it to the original creditor, or at least, that is what I understood. However my insurance company just sent it to the original creditor.
So now the original creditor had to notify the debt collection company who had to notify the lawyers office that the debt was paid.
That took over a year. Each time I'd get a continuance to show up in court 3 months later, because the debt was paid, so they weren't getting a cent from me. I'd gladly lay it out to the judge, but instead they kept filing a continuance. Eventually the court in Colorado denied their request for a continuance.
Now the best part is that the debt was for approximately $300 dollars. In combined costs of lawyers fees/court fees/debt collection time/all that fun stuff I am sure they spent WAY more money trying to collect. Didn't cost me a penny, other than my time.
Edit: I’m assuming you’re in the US.
Simply on principle, there is no way I would ever negotiate with or pay people this incompetent.
It's definitely ridiculous how unaccountable third parties can affect one's life in such a way, leaving the consumer scrambling to set the story straight about themselves.