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The Accidental Deadbeat

Written by Nickel - 20 Comments

I’m a deadbeat. Or at least that’s what a local collection agency has been led to believe. Remember that call from a collection agency? As it turns out our local Urgent Care facility turned us over to collections less than a month after we received a bill from them.

To make a long story short, we took our son in to be seen for an illness in late December of last year. The insurance handling was a comedy of errors, and it took until late summer for the Urgent Care facility to get it sorted out. It’s important to not here that it was all their fault – they started out by billing our insurance using the wrong taxpayer ID number and went from there. All the while, our account was in limbo. So… The proper amount finally showed up in our account with a “Date of Service” in August. This resulted in a bill being generated in September. And less than 30 days after receiving that bill, I initiated payment via online billpay.

And now this… We received a statement from a local debt collection agency dated October 8th stating that we our bill is “seriously overdue” and has been turned over to them for collection. The letter further stated that if I question the validity of the debt that I have to notify them in writing within 30 days — this is one of the protections afforded by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). I’ve thus sent them a letter via certified mail laying out the situation and saying that I’ve already paid this bill. I’ve likewise sent a certified letter to Urgent Care billing office.

The tricky thing is that the transfer of this debt to the collection agency and our payment seem to have crossed in the mail. Thus, we’ve paid the bill to the original creditor, but the collection agency has purchased that debt and thinks that we owe them. This all happened so fast that I’m not even sure if the Urgent Care facility has received our payment yet. I’m guessing that this will take awhile to get straightened out, and I’m hoping that it won’t find its way to our credit report in the mean time.

Words cannot express how pissed off I am right now.

Published on October 17th, 2007 - 20 Comments
Filed under: Debt Reduction

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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20 Responses to “The Accidental Deadbeat”

  1. 1
    Colin E. McConnell Says:

    Like I said in an earlier postong, hire a lawyer. I bet it IS on your credit report already, and your wife’s too, if you have any joint accounts. Pull all three for both of you; even if you’ve already done so for the year (for the ‘free’ ones). If it is on the report(s) … file a correction with the agencies. Have the clinic send in correspondance to support your claim (if they will). Again, file a grievance with your State’s attorney general’s office.

  2. 2
    FMF Says:

    I’ve had my share of go-arounds with our medical insurer too. Key problem: the doctor’s office miscodes a visit and all you-know-what breaks loose. What a pain!

  3. 3
    Matt Says:

    That really sucks especially if you’ve already paid the bill. Hopefully Colin is wrong and this hasn’t gotten onto your credit report yet.

  4. 4
    http://www.thedividendguyblog.com Says:

    What an awful situation – just remember there is karma for debt collectors!

  5. 5
    Chief Family Officer Says:

    Ugh! What a nightmare! And I think it may be about to happen to me – my dr’s office has delayed for months in sending documents requested by my insurance company so I haven’t paid the bill b/c I’m waiting for the insurance claim to be processed but we’re waaaay past 120 days now. It occurred to me recently that they might just send the account to a collection agency … :(

  6. 6
    Me Says:

    Sorry to hear you have to deal with this garbage. Stay on top of it like you are and don’t pay them a dime! I have found healthcare facilities are quick to turn your files over to collections because it is costly to deal with the insurance company. Stand your ground.

  7. 7
    vh Says:

    That sounds like an abusive practice, and it may not be legal. Colin McC is right: file a complaint with your state attorney general…don’t wait. And complain in writing to the Better Business Bureau. Also, track down other regulatory bodies in your state: most states have an agency that oversees healthcare facilities and some regulate debt collectors. I believe there are federal laws that regulate debt collection, too. Report this incident to as many relevant agencies and organizations as you can find.

    I wonder, too, about the insurance company: if the urgent care clinic gave your name and address, which it undoubtedly had in addition to the wrong taxpayer ID number, shouldn’t the insuror have contacted you to find out if you had run up the bill in question?

  8. 8
    Chris Says:

    I would start this out by demanding an official letter from Urgent Care showing the bill has been paid. Send copies of that to the collection agency and to all 3 credit agencies and tell them its an invalid debt and it needs to be removed.

    If you have any problems after that, it might be time to file complaints to the AG or ask a lawyer what you can do to set this collection agency right. Since you paid the bill within 30 days and you have paperwork showing that, a simple letter w/ proofs attached should take care of it.

  9. 9
    Jeremy Says:

    Welcome to the club. Medical bills are the WORST when it comes to stuff like this. We have a similar issue right now with our eye care facility. Something was coded wrong, and our insurance is saying they paid for everything but the $5 co-pay, but the doctor says we owe over $90#@%$*(*%

    It is already 60 days past due and they are threatening to turn over to collections, and I’ve shown them our insurance statement a million times that they paid it, and nobody can seem to get anything accomplished.

  10. 10
    Rebecca Says:

    I agree with Christ – However I would also give the Urgent Care place a piece of my mind for having sent this off to collections less than a month after the date of the invoice. That is unreasonable and making a ton of extra work for you. I would probably include a copy of the invoice you were sent with other documents to show how unreasonable the whole thing is.

  11. 11
    John Says:

    You wouldn’t believe how many times our medical bills are wrong, take too long to fix, and get threatened with collections. Long story short, one of my sons has a medical issue that results in us taking trips to the ER in the middle of the night. Over the past three years, I’d estimate close to HALF of our bills have been incorrect. I am know trained to read and question every single charge on a bill and I’m consistently appalled at the number of mistakes. I’ve long wondered how much money the general public wastes on medical billing errors.

  12. 12
    jim Says:

    So… those two calls to you a couple weeks ago WERE for you. You deadbeat…

  13. 13
    Cheap Like Me Says:

    I left a dentist who had seen me for several years (and I always paid promptly). They claimed to have sent me one bill, which I didn’t receive, and the account was off to collections a month or two later — without even a call from his office! It’s hard to manage medical accounts on both sides … but this is ridiculous. Good luck with it.

  14. 14
    Mrs. Micah Says:

    I’ve gotten some threatening phone calls at work for invoices we never received (well, if we did it was before I started working there and they’re not in the invoice book). Fortunately, I’m at a business, a corporation in fact, so it’s not my butt on the line. Especially since I wasn’t here. I just tell them I’d be happy to pay the invoice if we could just get new copies.

    Good luck with getting this straightened out!

  15. 15
    Ebony Says:

    Ahhh… the nightmare is shared. I got a bill from my dermatologist the other day, and two days later I received the exact same bill with a “30-days past due” notice on it. I had no idea there were 30 days between 9/6 and 9/8…

  16. 16
    Joy Smith Says:

    WOW. And I thought we had problems with finances. I’m sorry to hear about what the debt agency has done. I would fight it since you’ve already paid the bill and it will hurt your credit score. :(

  17. 17
    Jesse VanWay Says:

    I had my own bit of fun with mis-coding. I brought this issue back to the physician, who insited that she had in fact provided the service.

    Luckily I was friends with a lady in billing who was able to resolve the issue.

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