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I went to the emergency room 5 months ago, and got a $2,000 bill. I didn't have the money to pay, so it just went to collections this month.

But I already saved some cash, and I want to pay it off in full directly to the hospital. Is it a good idea? Will this hurt my credit? Should I rather pay it to the collection agency?

It is not on my credit report yet. So, if I pay to the hospital, will I still get this collection record on my credit report in the future? Or maybe I need to wait until it shows up on my credit report, and then settle "pay to delete" agreement described by @AlexB at this other question?

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Short Answer

Collections agencies and the businesses they collect for are two different animals. If you don't want this to hurt your credit I suggest you deal directly with the hospital. Pay the bill, but prior to paying it get something in writing that specifically says that this will not be reported onto your credit. That is of course if the hospital even lets you pay them directly. Usually once something is sold to a collections company it's written off.

Long Answer

Credit reports are kind of a nightmare to deal with. The hospital just wants their money so they will sell debt off to collections companies. The collections companies want to make money on the debt they've bought so they will do what ever it takes to get it out of you, including dinging your credit report. The credit bureaus are the biggest nightmare to deal with of all. Once something is reported on your credit history they do little to nothing to remove it. You can report it online but this is a huge mistake because when you report online you wave your rights to sue the credit bureaus if they don't investigate the matter properly. This of course leads to massive amounts of claims being under investigated.

So what are your options once something hits your credit history?

  1. Ignore everything I said and file online to no avail
  2. Contact the original reporter (the hospital in this case) and have them contact the credit bureaus to remove the negative charge (this is the easiest way and most effective though the word easy is used relatively in this case. In other words good luck finding A. someone who cares and B. someone who cares and has the authority/knowledge to do what you're asking). You can also get the collections agency to remove it from your credit history though this is like catching a electric unicorn in a bottle.
  3. Hire a lawyer that specializes in this.

I know this all sounds bleak but the reason I go into such depth is that they likely have already reported it to the credit bureaus and you just don't see it reported yet. Good luck to you. Get a bottle of aspirin.

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    "Usually once something is sold to a collections company it's written off." Exactly. It may be too late to talk to hospital. It's already gone to collections. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Apr 7 '15 at 11:39
  • The only reason I suggest talking to the hospital is because if there is someone with a soul in their collections department then you might have a chance of getting them to contact the collections agency or credit bureau to stop the process. Its a long shot but its worth a try. – Anthony Russell Apr 7 '15 at 11:42

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