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I had a 2-hour ER visit for a biking accident at an out-of-network location in 2014, and provided the insurance information at check-in. Four months later the hospital and the doctors (charging separately) were able to send me the bill as well as file claims with my insurer, and were fully paid.

I did not know at the time that the radiologist would charge me separately, and do not remember having received anything from them (otherwise I would have forwarded the bill to my insurer, along with those from the hospital and the doctors). The balance has since been put to collections, which came to my attention when I checked my credit report for the first time this month. I have not received anything from the collection bureau either.

My insurer's record shows that 6 months after the visit, they sent my insurance info to the radiologist, and prompted them to file a claim. The insurer did not record what they received from the radiologist in the first place, or how the radiologist came to their attention; an agent told me that they could well have received a bill (not a claim) from the radiologist, but there is no record.

The insurer refuses to pay the balance due to time limit of filing. The radiologist has my medical record but claims that the balance has been transferred to the collections bureau. The collections bureau claims that the radiologist must have sent me something, and I failed to provide in return my insurance info.

I'm looking for ways to resolve this relatively quickly, but also in a way that protects my credit score (~700 Equifax, which records the collection, and ~750 TransUnion, which does not). If this balance in indeed disputable, how should I handle this (files to ask, sequence of negotiation etc.)? The amount at less than $200, is also manageable. Should I, and if yes, how should I pay it?

The insurer and I are in Connecticut; the radiologist and collections bureau are in New York.

  • Which health insurance is it? – d.ariane Oct 17 '17 at 2:51
  • It's my university's in-house insurer, which covers out-of-network ER visits worldwide. – siyuanr Oct 17 '17 at 2:53
  • Is the university and the insurance both based in the US? If so, is the university public or private? – d.ariane Oct 17 '17 at 2:56
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    Both are based in the US. It's a private university. – siyuanr Oct 17 '17 at 2:59
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    If you choose to fight it, see my answer to this related question money.stackexchange.com/questions/57288/… – user662852 Oct 17 '17 at 19:05
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Sorry to hear you are in this situation-First thing I would do is immediately go to your university counselor and explain the situation. Bring all the related paperwork and information you have. They should be able to tell you where or who in the university deals with the in-house insurance. Hopefully they can do the research and rectify the situation without you doing anything else. Best case scenario would be they take care of it and you don't have to do or pay anything at all, maybe a low copay at the most.

Unfortunately the next quickest resolution (possibly the cheapest & most energy/time effective) would be to pay the $200. There is no guarantee fighting the debt will succeed, and it'll be difficult to dispute something that has gone to collections without going to court. The reason for this is your alleged debt owed to the service provider has been sold to the debt collection company. Debt collectors usually pay pennies on the dollar purchasing the debt from said service provider/doctor therefore owning the debt. Fighting this by yourself alone would involve unknown amounts of time on the phone demanding to speak with higher ups, several emails explaining your situation to people who likely can't or won't help, etc. There must be sufficient paper trail of you arguing the debt consistently, and it could still be a battle lost.

But if you insist on fighting it, and must do so without the help of your university; request the debt collection company send you all documentation related to your case and then contact a lawyer. Many lawyers offer 15-30 minute free phone consultations where they might steer you in the right direction, even though they do not take your case. The benefit of hiring an attorney in this situation wouldn't be for monetary reasons, but rather you would end up paying them to have the debt removed from your credit history.. in which case I assume they would charge more than $200.

Best of luck to you.

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    Thanks. Unfortunately I've lost all paperwork on this, and have to rely on my insurer to dig up the record and the files submitted to them. If I choose to pay, on what grounds should I argue for a pay-for-deletion? – siyuanr Oct 17 '17 at 12:45
  • @siyuanr If I were you, I would continuously argue that I never received any bill from the radiologist, you could also point out all other medical bills from that incident were paid timely. Although you lost all paperwork I would still try your university counselor, even if they can't help you directly ask what they recommend. If payment for deletion doesn't work, you can try offering much less money than $200 by saying you're a student who can only afford X amount. You could try asking for both a reduction and deletion, but I would not say that's common.. usually only pay is reduced. – d.ariane Oct 17 '17 at 18:27
  • The university and the insurer could not offer any further help (not even legal advice). I called the collections agency again and tried to dispute the charge exactly along the lines you suggested. They refused to recognize my attempt as a dispute, because I am not contesting that I owe it, but rather that I know it. However, they told me that if I pay in full, the record will "drop off" from my credit report in 30-45 days, but refused to commit the above statement into writing. Is this a pay-for-deletion offer, or am I missing some caveats? Should I contest with the credit bureaus on this? – siyuanr Oct 24 '17 at 21:14
  • It's too bad the university couldn't help you. I don't think they could have provided legal advice, but I'm disappointed to hear your counselor gave you no guidance. Looks like you have some work to do. As I mentioned in the answer above, there must be sufficient paper trail and it has to be consistent. Your communications should be written via email or letter, everything needs to be in writing from now on. Go to this website: consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/debtcollection – d.ariane Oct 25 '17 at 6:54

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