• From 2000 until 2005, I accumulated about $200,000 USD in medical debt to 4 hospitals in 3 states. I can't even count the number of physicians who were involved.
  • Initially, things went ok with billing and insurance. Later, insurance pre-approved some expensive stuff. The doctors required this pre-approval.
  • After the procedures, insurance reneged. I fought, but eventually I just gave-up. The doctors started sending me all the bills.
  • I applied for "financial hardship", but got very little relief. Probably, the best relief happened when I went to billing at NW Memorial Hospital. I started talking to a manager about the 1985 Chicago Bears for about 30-minutes. We had a great time. So, she told me to just keep my $2400 and she'd "take care of" that particular delinquent bill. I'm not making that up!
  • Around 2010, I stopped getting calls from debt collectors.
  • In 2010 I moved to a new city. I still have around $5k in medical bills per year, and I am paying them on time, no problem.

I just looked through all the bills / insurance / receipts paperwork from 2000-2005. It takes-up four 3 ring binders. It is hopeless to figure-out who I paid what to. I am ready to shred it all and move-on with my life. In fact, I'm moving to Japan and plan to work there for a very, very, long time.

Before I leave, I want some idea about the status of that unpaid medical debt.
I've not heard from bill collectors for several years, so is it forgiven?
If I shred it and bolt for Japan, then what happens to that debt?
If/when I go back to the US, will that debt be hanging around my neck?

Please, give me some tips on where to start to understand this.

  • Do you have other assets here? Is filing bankruptcy before you leave for Japan an option?
    – quid
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 19:31
  • no. I have no assets. Nor, do i have much reason to return to the USA. I'd be happy to stay in Japan. But, I might like the option of working in the US again. I just don't know.
    – david.t
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 19:32
  • 4
    Depending on your income level you could probably file a Chapter 7, the medical debts would be discharged. You should talk to a local bankruptcy attorney before doing anything but if you have no assets, and can meet the qualifications for a 7, it seems reasonable to just wipe the slate before you leave.
    – quid
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 19:34
  • 3
    Have you checked your credit report. You can get a free (no credit card required, and should never be requested) credit report each year from the big three, or use a service like Credit Karma. Also free. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 20:36
  • 1
    @LorenPechtel That depends on the laws of the State and the actions taken, I would leave this statement to a lawyer.
    – littleadv
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 7:02

1 Answer 1


First of all, the only way to force you to pay a debt is to sue you and get a judgment. From what you said, they have not sued you (unless they served and sued you without you knowing, which is sometimes possible). Without suing you, all they have is your signature on an agreement. The worst thing they can do without suing you is put bad things on your credit report, which would be gone by now anyway since things only stay on the credit report for something like 7 years.

At this point, the most relevant thing to know is the Statute of Limitations. If this amount of time has passed since the debt was incurred, then any future lawsuit brought against you for the debt can be dismissed if you raise the Statute of Limitations. So basically, once the Statute of Limitations has passed, you pretty much don't have to worry about the debt, though the collectors can still contact you about collecting the debt indefinitely, and you have to respond to any lawsuits and remember to raise the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations for a written contract varies by state, and can be anywhere from 3 to 15 years.

Note that the Statute of Limitations clock can be paused or reset by certain things. For example, if you are outside the state whose law governs the debt, then the Statute of Limitations is usually "tolled" (paused) until you return. If you ever pay any amount towards the debt, or acknowledge that you owe the debt, the clock resets, and starts counting from 0 again. So depending on the specific circumstances, the Statute of Limitations may not have passed even if it was a really long time ago.

  • good stuff. Just checked on Experian, and all that medical debt is not there. Your explanation seems valid.
    – david.t
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 1:15

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