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I had cancer last year. Thanks be to God, I am now well and my health is good, and I am very grateful for this. While I had good insurance that kept everything financially manageable, as anyone who has had this themselves or assisted a family member with this knows, there are a litany of bills to manage, many of which in my case were done incorrectly by the provider. I have been able to have a large number of mistakes corrected (10+), but have one recently that is still lingering, and I wanted to ask for input.

I have a set of bills from the providing facility, who instead of providing bills for individual dates of service, provides a running account that is sent monthly. I had bills pertaining to services from (2015) June, September, December, (2016) February, and April. Sometimes my insurance is delayed in providing payment, and when I have called the provider in these instances they have said I can wait to pay until things clear with insurance, which until now has always worked out in the end despite some headaches.

Most recently, I received 2 separate billing account statements. I received an older one that had bills for June/Sep/Dec/Feb/April, and a newer one that did not have September (so just June/Dec/Feb/April). I called to ask why this was the case, and the provider said that they had resubmitted the September claim and thus it was not on my account to be paid (it was originally way too high and clearly insurance had not paid yet); the other months' accounts looked like everything was handled correctly so I paid them off (long story short, I was not late on the older bills, I had paid them off previously and they had added small things which I believe were legitimate, so I paid those off as well at this time).

Surprisingly to me, a couple of weeks ago I received mailed notice from a collections agency for 2 bills. I called the treatment provider to ask about this, and they claimed the September bill had not been paid. When I mentioned that I had fully paid off the most recent bill, they said they credit payments made to the largest bill first (e.g. if April is larger than last June, they pay April first when I make a credit card payment; this was not told to me and I did not consent to this) and that September had been sent to collections. Additionally, just the other day I noticed that my insurance provider made a payment which I believe is for the September bill, so the provider clearly has been in talks with my insurer to get the bill paid.

My question is: how can I address this without it affecting my credit? Specific advice, links, and suggested resources are welcome. The total collections is for about $800; I believe with this recent insurance payment I should owe about $100 (and would be happy to pay the part that I owe), but my biggest concern is how this affects my credit. Is it worth getting an attorney to help?

I have great appreciation for the care that has saved my life, and I am more than willing to pay my fair share - I believe much hard work goes into treatment and the providers deserve to be compensated well. Thanks for any and all input.

 

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rated:
Pay the treatment provider directly. They will have to take the collections account back from the collections agency, forcing the agency to cease any delinquent reporting.

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Cancer provider??

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Don't pay a dime just yet.
First, get EOBs for all your bills, and make sure insurance has paid their share.
Next, if you're sure insurance has paid their share, call the original creditor (OC, i.e. "cancer provider") and state you're willing to pay, as long as they stop collections.
If the OC doesn't give you a clear answer regarding recalling the collections, then dispute the collections notice in writing. You have 30 days, so no need to panic.

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mikejensen said:   Cancer provider??
  Flint River.

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Alessandro,

I only skimmed your original post,

but I think that something a little similar (but not completely similar) happened recently to a relative of mine, regarding a hospital that sends a rolling bill that has every charge from every month on it -- featuring different medical conditions, different medical staff, different surgeries, different treatments, different dates -- instead of sending specific bills for specific dates of treatment by specific providers.

The hospital always sends a bill to my relative that covers many months, and says that $x is owed. He always checks his EOBs from his insurance companies and if everything on the hospital rolling statement looks right, he pays the hospital $x by check promptly.

Well, one recent month, he got the bill and paid the amount they said he owed (by a check in the mail).

The next month, the hospital sent him that month's bill, and on that bill they had added some charges that they said were incurred in early 2014 (thus they were billing him, for the first time, for services that were done over 2 years ago) --

and the thing was, when they had received his check payment for the previous month in the mail, a couple of weeks earlier, for $x which was the total due on the previous month's bill they had sent him,

they sneakily applied a portion of that check payment to the brand-new bills from early 2014 that they had not billed him for previously, and then they applied a percentage of his check payment to the charges that had been on the previous month's statement, which meant that his check didn't cover the full costs of ANY charge that had been on the hospital statement of the previous month,
and then they turned right around and said that they were going to send him to collections because he still partially owed on two bills from 2014 (even though he'd never been presented with those bills before).

I told him that I had heard that you generally don't have to pay a medical bill if it's over a year or two old and you've never been presented with it before, but I wasn't sure. The hospital call center people wouldn't help him with it on the phone, so he ended up sending the hospital another check for what they said was his sudden new total, even though it seemed a bit fishy.

By the way, the two bills from 2014 that he'd never been presented with before only totalled $40, and they'd taken some money from his prior month's check to pay *some* of that bill (leaving a bizarre number like $8.13 that was left to pay on the 2014 bills) but the hospital was apparently about to send him to collections immediately for that remaining total.

Those 2 bills had been listed as his responsibility on his insurance company EOBs on the correct dates in 2014, but the hospital had not mentioned them to my relative before the summer of 2016, so they waited 2 years to tell him in a monthly statement that they were due.

If it had been for a more substantial amount of money, he would have looked into it more rigorously. He did not dispute that his insurance company had decided that $40 was what he owed for those long-ago treatments, he only disputed that the hospital waited for 2 years to ask him to pay, had mis-allocated his prior month's check that was sent in good faith to pay the particular charges that he'd been presented with at the time, and then was being a jerk about sending him to collections.

I'm sorry that I don't have any advice that might help your situation, but at least this shows that these rolling, gigantic bills that cover many treatments, conditions, medical staff, and time periods can be tricky, especially with how they allocate patient payments to them, and they have also gotten other patients into undeserved trouble.

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The answer is what DeGlass already said. Get all the EOBs together and reconcile every line, every charge, every treatment, every dollar amount, etc., against the provider invoices and all your previous payments. Find their mistakes, if there are any, and outline all the information in a written letter. Be polite but firm in the letter and explain that you either (A) don't actually owe them any money, or (B) are willing to pay $XXX.XX amount immediately, which will satisfy any and all debts you have with them in full, as soon as they pull back the collection agency. Although unlikely from what you've said, it's also possible that you can explain (C) how much of a refund they owe TO YOU. Congratulations on not dying and please keep us updated on the developments.

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Thank you all for your help. I called, got straightened out with them on what I actually owe (took quite a while, they were confused themselves on how things had been addressed), and paid what I actually owed to them with an agreement that they will take back the incorrect bills from the collections agency. Will send a letter soon to collections agency stating bills sent to collections were in error, and hopefully all is set. The billing process alone has been very stressful and your ideas were very helpful in alleviating the stress - many thanks!

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