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I am a college student that had surgery in 2014 on my gallbladder and subsequently became very ill and needed a necessary test to prove a a diagnosis my gastroenterologist suspected. He recommended the test and told me to have the test done at the hospital.

Being naive and 22 years old, not knowing to clarify that my insurance would completely cover the test (even though my insurance covered this doctor and his facility which was in that hospital), the insurance refused to pay for the medical exam. I got billed over 3700 dollars for this exam and could not pay so they sent it to collections.

I have tried to plead and appeal to the hospital, but they are no longer willing to help and the collections agency keeps telling me they can only reduce the bill by "20 percent per the policy of the hospital debt collections". I am so upset and have no idea what to do because I really cannot afford to pay this debt as I am struggling on my own and would like to stop this debt from haunting me now and in the future. I appreciate any and all advice. Thank you.

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I am sorry for your troubles. Presumably, you are feeling better which is the best possible outcome. You project that you are an honest person and desire to seek a fair outcome although you were mistreated. The insurance company should have paid a good portion of this bill.

Because of this situation you will learn a valuable lesson. Namely that collectors are scum. They lie and manipulate to do their job. They are trying to generate an emotional reaction out of you so you give in an put this bill on a credit card. Do not fear them.

My advice would be to ignore them. You can educate yourself on collections law in your state. They cannot call you at work and they probably cannot call you on a cell phone. They will threaten to garnish your wages, tax return, and take away your birthday. Just don't talk to them.

When you can save up some money. Once you have like $1200 attempt to settle in full for that amount. Get it in writing ahead of time and do not give them access to your checking account. Use a cashiers check or prepaid visa (that you then throw away). If they say no, do not argue, hang up and call back when you have 1300. Rinse, wash, repeat.

There is a decent chance that they have already violated some form of collections law. If you have proof you can call the company's legal department and provide that proof. You can then settle on having your collections waived.

In summary:

  • Do not fear them
  • Do not make a bad decision (put this on a credit card)
  • Don't agree to a payment plan
  • Its okay to talk to them to try to get proof of violations of collections law
  • Its okay to talk to them to settle for less (lump sum)
  • Other than that you have nothing to say.

This also presumes you have a lowish household income. If you make like 70K, jut pay the bill. I doubt that is the case though.

  • THANK YOU! I wish I made 70k! I will attempt to send them a settlement letter and go from there! I can't thank you enough for your advice! – Juliette B. Feb 16 '16 at 22:34
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    For example if they harass you on your phone, record it. Although you need to check the laws on whether or not recording phone calls is legal in your state – William Dunne Feb 16 '16 at 22:39
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    I can't stress enough how important it is to get IN WRITING that they accepted a payment for less than the full amount to fully settle the debt. It is extremely common for them to agree to it verbally then sell the collection to another agency who won't honor the agreement or take it off your credit report for the remaining balance. – JohnFx Feb 17 '16 at 0:01
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First of all, the only thing they can do to force you to pay is sue you. If they don't sue you, then they can't force you to do anything. All they have right now is just a written agreement you signed promising to pay. That by itself doesn't have legal power to take money from you. The worst they can do without suing you is put negative information on your credit report (which has probably already happened anyway).

If they sue you within the "statute of limitations", they will almost certainly win and get a judgment against you, because you did agree to pay. With that judgment, the court can force you to reveal your income and asset information, and they can take the judgment to do things like seize money from your bank accounts and/or garnish your wages. And the judgment does not go away.

However, if you have no money in the bank and/or income, they can't take any money from you, because you have none. They can't take more from you than you have. In other words, if you have no money or income, and won't have money or income soon, the judgment they can get by suing you and winning isn't worth the paper it's on. Since serving you and suing you takes money and effort, they will make a calculation on whether it is worth suing you based on the amount of debt and what amount of money they think they can get from you based on what they know about you. This is the reason why you may not be sued at all (if they calculate that it is not worth it), and also why they may offer you a settlement for a lesser amount (because is saves the cost of suing and the risk that they won't be able to get you to pay). The amount you mentioned (several thousand dollars) may be small enough for it to be not worth it.

Another thing is the statute of limitations I mentioned earlier, which varies by state and is several years long. If they sue you after the statute of limitations passes, then you can raise the statute of limitations and get the lawsuit dismissed. So basically, after this amount of time passes, you are pretty much free from this debt. Note that the statute of limitations "resets" if you acknowledge the debt, which includes paying any amount on the debt or agreeing that you owe them this debt. So if the collection agency ever offers you benefits if you just sign a promissory note, or just pay a token amount, don't fall for the trap -- they are trying to reset the statute of limitations. Even though it's true that you owe them the debt, never let them hear you acknowledging it, unless it's part of a final settlement.

Finally, if they get a judgment against you and you don't want them to have the ability to take your money indefinitely in the future until the debt is satisfied, there may be the option of bankruptcy. However, a few thousand dollars may not be worth the cost and negative consequences of bankruptcy, since as a young man you should be able to earn that amount quickly whenever you start working.

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