Protect Yourself from Medical Debt Overload with Self-Advocacy
You or someone you know may be closing out the year with large amounts of medical debt even after insurance payments or what you thought were relatively minor surgeries or other procedures. In fact, you may feel like you’ve been hit by a blizzard by the sheer number of bills related to that one procedure. And they keep on coming.
One step you can do is confirm or validate the bill, especially if a lot of time has elapsed since the initial service. This simply means you want proof that you had the services rendered and do in fact owe the balance due. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit agencies are supposed to help consumers to ensure that bills are correct and fair before payment is rendered. But without good knowledge of these laws and taking the time necessary to investigate, you could end up paying much more than you owe. Here are a few other ways to stand up for yourself and your bottom line.
Keep Proof of Charges
The bad apples that pollute our debt collection environment may be operating on an entirely fraudulent basis. There have been many news stories of consumers receiving calls from phone bank operators, posing fraudulently as legitimate debt collectors. A tip off is that in many instances, the caller will fail to fully identify him/herself, their company, and the nature of the call. There are also reports that unprincipled companies are using ‘bread crumbs’ of financial data in order to manufacture phony debts that their workers demand payment for during outbound telephone calls. Collectors have been known to threaten litigation or other legal action without any legal basis as well as fail to provide written proof that a debt is owed when requested by the consumer.
One big part of your arsenal is the paper trail of charges, as well as Explanation of Benefits (or EOBs) that show whether or not the insurance company paid their fair share. Keep all of these documents on hand so that you can prove any overcharges and trigger an analysis by a credit agency.
Get Credit Bureaus In On the Action
It may be tempting to just do what your provider or a third party debt collection agency tells you to do. However, you may find assistance directly with a credit agency, who is perhaps more likely to take your interests into account. Don’t just believe what a debt collector tells you; respond by drawing impartial parties into the fray to help sort out eventual financial responsibilities.
Stick To Your Guns – And Read Fine Print
Some of the problems with medical debt happens when you have waived the ability to sue or to get other outside mediation. Some medical businesses are now including this language in their financial consent forms, making ‘arbitration’ a key part of any debt complaint policy. Allowing arbitration that can favor your creditor is a major mistake so make sure that you have a hand free for any financial conflicts that arise between you and any business.
In general, prepare yourself beforehand so that you know how to proceed with legitimate or not so legitimate creditors. Educate yourself about the credit industry and how it interacts with our healthcare system. Former patients who receive unfair or excessive medical bills may receive a reprieve when they appeal to the right parties and follow through all the way with a fact-based, informed argument.