How to Fight a Collection Agent for a Medical Bill

First of all, never pay right away. After all, the collection effort could stem from an error made by the healthcare provider or insurer, or even be fraudulent. Plus, the problem is rarely as urgent as the debt collector might make it out to be, says Howard.

On the other hand, never ignore the collection notice either, says Avi Grunwald, CEO of Fair Capital, a debt collection agency. If you do, the debt in question could lower your credit score by 12 points or more, despite recent changes from the credit bureaus, according to the CFPB. This is because although the bureaus have extended the time you have to fix the problem, after 12 months your credit score could still be affected.

Instead, here’s what to do when contacted by a debt collector about a medical debt.

Gather as much information as possible. If a debt collector calls, don’t hang up, says Howard. Instead, write down the name of the collection agency and the person you’re speaking with, along with their phone number, address, and email address. Also get the name and contact information of the health care provider who says you owe them money, the date and amount of the bill, and any other details you can. Simply “asking all of these questions can deter a bogus debt collector from contacting you again,” says Howard.

And if the call is legitimate, you will need this information to check for errors. If you receive a notice by mail or email, review it for details, then contact the company for any missing information.

Ask the debt collector to send a debt verification. Within five days of this request, the collection agency is required by law to send you a letter that lists your rights as a consumer and provides key details about the alleged debt, including the name of the creditor and the amount. which he claims you owe, says Howard. Legitimate collection agencies will help validate the debt, says Grunwald.

File a dispute within 30 days. Once you have the verification letter, you have 30 days to dispute the debt in writing, either by email or certified letter. (The NCLC has a great sample letter.) Keep a copy of the correspondence and send it certified, says Howard, because debt collectors can lose the dispute letter.

By law, the debt collector must then stop all collection attempts and send you additional information about the debt, such as the original invoice, along with a response date. And if the collector reports the debt to the credit bureaus, the reports should show that you dispute it. A possible bonus of disputing: The collection agency can stop suing you, says Howard.

If you don’t dispute the debt within 30 days of receiving the verification letter, the collection agency will assume the debt is valid.

Make sure the money owed is listed as a medical debt. New changes from medical bureaus only keep unpaid medical bills out of your credit report, not other types of bills. So your credit score is at risk if your medical bills have been mislabeled as, say, credit card debt or a car loan, says Bruce McClary, senior vice president of memberships and communications at the National Foundation. for Credit Counseling.

If your bill is mischaracterized, contact the credit bureau and collection agency and ask them to correct the error. If he does not or refuses to do so, file a notice with the CFPB. The CFPB will forward your complaint directly to the company.

Also, leave a comment on your credit report explaining that the item being collected is a disputed medical debt, so that anyone who reviews your credit report has a better understanding of your situation. (To do this, look for the Personal Consumer Statement option on Equifax and in the Disputes sections of the Experian and TransUnion websites.)