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I have a family member who disputed a medical bill she received in April. Essentially, the provider billed for a code that indicated it was a 30-minute visit, instead of 5. Upon receiving the bill, she contacted the provider's billing office, which said they would review it and get back to her.

In August, she received a letter from a collection agency for the bill amount without receiving any further correspondence from the provider. The amount is small: $160, so she can pay it.

My question is regarding how she should proceed to ensure there is not a derogatory impact on her credit report. Should she contact the medical provider's billing department to explain the situation and pay? Should she contact the collection agency about removing any remarks in exchange for the payment? It would have been nice to get the original bill adjusted on principle but, at this point, it seems paying it however would take priority.

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Unfortunately, many providers take the easy way and simply ignore phone or in person complaints, and thereby mostly get away with overbilling. Always make sure to officially mail them your request for adjustment; otherwise they might just claim 'it never happened' or they 'understood you differently'.

I am not a lawyer. My recommendation would be to pay (to get rid of the negative consequences), but mail them a letter requesting adjustment. You are probably still entitled to a correction, and a reimbursement.

It is your decision if you want to go through the effort for the principal of fighting it, or for the amount; be prepared it might be quite tedious. I had a case where I needed to send four letters, and show up six times in the office to pick up the check (they even tried things like 'the doctor didn't yet have time to sign the check', until I decided to wait in their office all day for his signature).

The alternative is to never give them the money, and fight it out, but even if you win, you might be a year or longer with a damaged credit history. If you go that way, you should contact the three credit reporting bureaus, as you have the right at least to add a brief statement sharing the facts from your side.

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I contacted the provider's billing department on her behalf to pay the bill. In doing so, they confirmed they failed to communicate the verdict of their review and their bill-mailing contractor had incorrectly recorded the address.

The billing department withdrew the bill from the collection agency, and my relative received a receipt from the provider and a letter from the collection agency indicating the account had been withdrawn and that the credit bureaus would have no record of this incident.

Therefore, to answer the original question, contacting the provider's billing department first was a successful solution.

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