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UPDATE: Hospital Sent My Bill Paid by Credit Card to Collections

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Hello FWF Community,

I am hoping that you can provide me some advice on what to do here.  Is there anyone I can contact to get this fixed short of an attorney or suing them myself.

Short Version - The Hospital Sent My Bill Paid by Credit Card to Collections and I'm at a loss of what to do about it.  Does anyone have any advice on what actions I can take?

Long Version - The Hospital billed me in November 2016 for my copay of $1000.  I paid the bill online with my Chase credit card.  A few days later, I look at my online Chase account and I see that the Hospital billed me twice for the $1000.00  Hospital did not respond to phone calls or e-mails for over a week so I initiated a dispute with the credit card company.  Chase does a temporary chargeback.  Hospital finally gets back to me via e-mail and says they will refund the money.  I tell credit card company to drop the dispute and they tell me to wait for it to play out. 

Fast forward to January and Chase finishes their chargeback investigation and tells me that they have not accepted the chargeback because the merchant corrected the error.  Fast forward to late March, I get a bill from the hospital telling me I owe them money again because of chargeback.  I told them that Chase paid them their money and provided them with a copy of my statements along with the date of the chargeback reversal transaction as well as the Credit Card reference number of the chargeback reversal.  I also ask the hospital what their credit card receipt records show.  They ignore my question and my documentation and won't look at or tell me what their credit card processing systems say in terms of whether they received payment.  I also ask Chase to look into this.  

Chase gets back to me and two weeks ago I try to do a three way call with Chase and the Hospital and the hospital tells me that they need me to tell them the exact account number the money went into.  Chase says that will take some more time to research.  While I am waiting for Chase to get back to me, Hospital sends my account to a third party collections agency and I'm now concerned about my credit and the additional new mess I will need to clean up.  I am also livid at the hospital for sending the account to collections so quickly when they can see that we are trying to get this resolved.

My best guess as to what happened is that the chargeback reversal where Chase sent the funds back to the hospital was never credited to my hospital account.  And I can't get anyone at the hospital to bother to look into their credit card processing systems to see whether it was received.

Obviously, if the collections agency messs up, I'm going to go all CodeName47 on them, but what to do about the hospital and cleaning up the underlying payment, I'm at a loss of where to go from here.  The hospital will no longer talk to me; they told me the account is with collections when I last called.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

7/3/17 UPDATE: Thanks everyone for their helpful advice.  I wanted to provide an update to those who are interested.  I provided the hospital a letter from Chase confirming payment.  The hospital ignored that information.  Thus far, I have sent a debt validation letter to the collection agency, who "validated" the debt by sending me a bill that I have never seen before, which I assume is a form of the original bill in the amount of approximately $56,000.  But they do say that I only owe $1000.00.  I am not sure what to do about that.  Per the Collection Agency, they have validated the debt, so they are continuing to collect.  They don't care about the fact that its been paid. 

I have filed complaints thus far with the Attorney General, BBB, State Department of Health, the "Joint Commission, CFPB, State Hospital Licensing Board, VISA, the FTC.  So far, I have only heard back from the Joint Commission who told me that this is not a safety or hospital quality issue so they don't care.  Next, I am going to reach out to a few local TV stations and see if they want to help out. 

 

Member Summary
Most Recent Posts
I'm a little confused
Did 1 transaction (for $2,000) or 2 transactions appear on your statement?
The Merchant corrected th... (more)

camiolo (Jul. 06, 2017 @ 12:53p) |

They billed my credit card for 2 $1000 transactions.  I had also thought about your suggestion -- just disputing the sec... (more)

ThiftySpender (Jul. 06, 2017 @ 2:58p) |

OP, if the collector is trying to collect a debt that was double charged and has been paid, it is a slam dunk case. They... (more)

codename47 (Jul. 08, 2017 @ 11:35a) |

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See if the hospital has a patient advocate who might be able to help get some resolution. If you can't get it resolved right away, send the collection folks a "dispute, please validate" letter to hold them off while you get it sorted with the hospital.

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IANAL, but based on my experience, file a grievance with the hospital. This requires a form to be filled out and sent to them (I think most do it online), and it serves as an official compliant to the hospital. They cannot ignore it and are required to respond to you in writing. They will have to investigate and provide an answer.

I'd do this in parallel with dealing with the collections agency (which you can probably research via credit boards and the like).

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Wow. Apparently you can't even pay your medical bills without getting sent to collections. What's next? In between you AOR cycles and not looking for a mortgage soon? (or maybe moreso if you ARE)...sounds like a great hot deal to me! I've no idea if it matters, but billing you in general is part of their agreement with insurers as well assuming insurance was part of the process and it was in-network. I'd complain to your insurance company/board/regulator, the BBB, and as many other places you can think of. It may not be the fault of the insurance, but they should know if a provider isn't billing their insureds properly to the tune of demanding double payment on the exact same bill.

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File a grievance with your state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. This will get their attention very quickly. To find the name of the agency, I googled health care grievance with my state name and gov.

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Thanks for the suggestions. I will try them all out and let you know how it goes. I'm also wondering if there is someway to complain directly through Visa. Seems like they might care that one of their merchants accepted payment through them but is still billing for services.

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Thrifty, the collection agency screwed up if they contacted you and alleged you owed anything. If the bill is paid, alleging a debt owed is a false or misleading representation that violates the Fdcpa. If they report it on your credit, it is a double le screw up. I'd do a simple dispute, please validate and if they don't see the mistake, find a Fdcpa atty and sue them. They'll figure it out when the summons arrives.

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Yeah. Especially if the first charge stuck and you only disputed the duplicate.

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ThiftySpender said:   The Hospital billed me in November 2016 for my copay of $1000.  I paid the bill online with my Chase credit card.  A few days later, I look at my online Chase account and I see that the Hospital billed me twice for the $1000.00  Hospital did not respond to phone calls or e-mails for over a week so I initiated a dispute with the credit card company. 
 

  Why didn't you just walk to the cashier window and ask what happened?

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atikovi said:   
ThiftySpender said:   The Hospital billed me in November 2016 for my copay of $1000.  I paid the bill online with my Chase credit card.  A few days later, I look at my online Chase account and I see that the Hospital billed me twice for the $1000.00  Hospital did not respond to phone calls or e-mails for over a week so I initiated a dispute with the credit card company. 
  Why didn't you just walk to the cashier window and ask what happened?

  This. Not to fault the OP- but it almost always works out better when you just appear in person and confront them, rather than emailing or calling a generic contact point.

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TravelerMSY said:   
atikovi said:   
ThiftySpender said:   The Hospital billed me in November 2016 for my copay of $1000.  I paid the bill online with my Chase credit card.  A few days later, I look at my online Chase account and I see that the Hospital billed me twice for the $1000.00  Hospital did not respond to phone calls or e-mails for over a week so I initiated a dispute with the credit card company. 
  Why didn't you just walk to the cashier window and ask what happened?

  This. Not to fault the OP- but it almost always works out better when you just appear in person and confront them, rather than emailing or calling a generic contact point.

  If he knew he was going to have to go in person and "argue", I'm sure he would've told them he had 800 left on his card to pay in full and be done with it....

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This line of "why didn't you do X instead" isn't all that helpful.

I agree that hindsight is 20/20 and had I known that they were unable or unwilling to read their account statements or double bill the credit card, I would have done a lot of things differently. I'm not sure exactly how it works at other hospitals, but for me, I didn't get a bill that I paid at a Cashier on the way out. I was not given a bill for several months until after the visit and it was sent in the mail after insurance paid their share.

For what it is worth, the billing/accounting department for the hospital is located about 2 hours away from the hospital. They apparently have a centralized accounting department because they either own or do the billing for several hospitals in the area.

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First, get your documentation in order, 1) original invoice from hospital showing $1,000 copay, 2) copies of all credit card statements showing the dobule charge, credits, etc (everything related to this charge), outline the timeline of events and charges/credits, showing a final balance of $0.00.

Provide this to the collections agency and hand deliver to the hospital, and try to speak with someone who can do something for you.  

I could be wrong, but I don't see the need to provide any information regarding what hospital account your credit card company paid.  It is the hospital's responsability to keep their records straight, not your responsibility.  It is only your responsibility to make sure you pay the bill, which you did.
 

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ThiftySpender said:   For what it is worth, the billing/accounting department for the hospital is located about 2 hours away from the hospital. They apparently have a centralized accounting department because they either own or do the billing for several hospitals in the area.
 

  
Then why don't you go there in person? More than likely, finding and talking to a human will sort this out. Just bring your documentation, explain that happened, and more than likely someone in their accounts receivable department can assist you.

That would be easier than trying to fight it out through collections.

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If I get red, so be it. But I'm not willing to do that.

Their incompetence so far along with their unwillingness to talk to me anymore over the phone because they no longer have the account does not lead me to believe a 4 hour drive to their office now (and taking a day off work) - which is probably just a back office that does not accept visitors, is going to change anything from the hospital's perspective. It's the same people whether I try that talk to them on the phone or email or try to visit in person. I don't see how handing them the same documents again that I already gave them changes their mind.

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I know you are angry at the hospital, but it doesn't sounds like you are approaching this rationally and trying to work it out. It may sound like a lot of fun to sue the hospital out of spite, but it won't be. More than likely, you'll lose more money and time on that than it's worth.

People who are upset make bad decisions, I'd recommend taking a step back, relax, and consider your options more carefully. It may take a day off work and persistence to find the right person, but making the right human connection can work wonders.

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gludlow said:   I know you are angry at the hospital, but it doesn't sounds like you are approaching this rationally and trying to work it out. It may sound like a lot of fun to sue the hospital out of spite, but it won't be. More than likely, you'll lose more money and time on that than it's worth.

People who are upset make bad decisions, I'd recommend taking a step back, relax, and consider your options more carefully. It may take a day off work and persistence to find the right person, but making the right human connection can work wonders.

  
There is a very HUGE problem with your bolded/underlined statement here. When it comes to debt and wanting to do the correct, legal, and ethical action it shouldn't be a challenge. It shouldn't require calling 50 numbers, gathering documentation, etc... Furthermore, there shouldn't be an ability on the billing side to do a trump card of "I'm not listening to you, but I'm still going to report you to credit agencies so they can run your credit in the mud and send collectors annoying you lol"

You really need to get your head on straight if that's really what you believe.

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I thought medical collection can no longer affect your personal credit, no? Rather than spending tons of time and energy on this, I would just do what's legal and minimal work for me: Ask collection company to validate debt, file complaints to any and all places I could, sit back and let the hospital sweat. Looks like there is no longer any need to involve Chase further.

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ahcool said:   I thought medical collection can no longer affect your personal credit, no?
  
In that case why should I pay any of my medical bills?

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Because they can still sue you for the debt and collect via asset seizure or wage garnishment.

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The solution to this problem is simple. It is called small claims court. You would be amazed how quickly someone with enough authority addresses the issue as soon as the dickheads are served.  For real fun, make sure to serve someone *at* the hospital.

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EvilCapitalist said:   The solution to this problem is simple. It is called small claims court. You would be amazed how quickly someone with enough authority addresses the issue as soon as the dickheads are served.  For real fun, make sure to serve someone *at* the hospital.
  Small claims is viable. But you can't just serve willy-nilly. They have an agent for service of process, and you need to properly follow the rules for service.

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justignoredem said:   When it comes to debt and wanting to do the correct, legal, and ethical action it shouldn't be a challenge. It shouldn't require calling 50 numbers, gathering documentation, etc... Furthermore, there shouldn't be an ability on the billing side to do a trump card of "I'm not listening to you, but I'm still going to report you to credit agencies so they can run your credit in the mud and send collectors annoying you lol"
 

  
You misread me. I agree, it shouldn't be a challenge and I never said the situation was fair, I was just giving advice on your easiest path forward. Sometimes, you get the short end of the stick and I believe that taking personal responsibility to fix it is the best course of action. And there is likely no legal remedy to make it fair, or punish the hospital, so if that is your driver you are going down a path with no chance of success.

It really seems you don't want to only fix the issue, you want "justice" also. There's nothing wrong with that, but don't get blinded to the fact that suing or taking some action against them because "it's not fair!" will cost you more money, more time, and in the end you most likely won't get the hospital to change their processes, so you won't make the world a better place.

This forum is about personal finance, and sometimes checking your ego is the best financial decision.

Keep us posted on progress!

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Another idea. In your local area, do any of the TV stations have a Consumer Advocate that helps solve egregious billing problems?

Many companies will respond to a local TV Consumer Advocate if they know that their company will be featured in a negative story on TV.
It's amazing how fast some companies can fix a long-standing billing problem when contacted by a local TV station about a specific problem.

 

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7/3/17 UPDATE: Thanks everyone for their helpful advice. I wanted to provide an update to those who are interested. I provided the hospital a letter from Chase confirming payment. The hospital ignored that information. Thus far, I have sent a debt validation letter to the collection agency, who "validated" the debt by sending me a bill that I have never seen before, which I assume is a form of the original bill in the amount of approximately $56,000. But they do say that I only owe $1000.00. I am not sure what to do about that. Per the Collection Agency, they have validated the debt, so they are continuing to collect. They don't care about the fact that its been paid.

I have filed complaints thus far with the Attorney General, BBB, State Department of Health, the "Joint Commission, CFPB, State Hospital Licensing Board, VISA, the FTC. So far, I have only heard back from the Joint Commission who told me that this is not a safety or hospital quality issue so they don't care. Next, I am going to reach out to a few local TV stations and see if they want to help out.

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I looked into small claims and I don't think its going to work here. Small claims in my area can only provide monetary relief. They do not have the ability to issue injunctions or declaratory relief, which is what I think I need here. If I were suing for monetary damages, what would be my cause of action?

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If it's on your credit report, dispute, and file suit under FCRA to get rid of it. (note the waiting period between disputing and having a valid cause of action)

Otherwise, a bill from the original creditor showing an amount different from the amount the collector is trying to collect is NOT validation. If you requested validation within 30 days of receiving your notice of dispute rights from the collector, and they resume collection activities (including reporting it to the credit bureaus) without sending you validation, sue them, they asked for it.

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Next, I am going to reach out to a few local TV stations and see if they want to help out.

When you get tired of doing useless stuff and wasting time and money, do what I told you to do so you can get results. Why have you not sued them in Federal court yet with or without a lawyers help>

When you sue them, they'll fold fast and as part of the settlement, the debt will be voided and all credit reporting removed.

It will never get to the point of injunction relief or trial.

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You need to sue at this point, collect 1k for your trouble and teach them a lesson in the process.

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ThiftySpender said:   I looked into small claims and I don't think its going to work here. Small claims in my area can only provide monetary relief. They do not have the ability to issue injunctions or declaratory relief, which is what I think I need here. If I were suing for monetary damages, what would be my cause of action?
Your damages are set by statute ($1000), but you can recover actual damages and reasonable attorney fees: The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (federal) and whatever local or state statutes may also apply will guide your legal strategy. Here's a Nolo article with simplified details. . 

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Fair enough, Codename47, my hesitation with suing is the $400 court filing costs for Federal court, which I would like to avoid having to do unless I know I have a slam dunk case. It sounds like the consensus here is that the debt collector's validation was bad and therefore I should be able to win in court on that point alone. Is that correct?

Can you be more specific as to the "them" you are referring to?

Just to be clear, the suggested approach is for me to sue the debt collector in Federal court for $1000+ under the FDCPA for not properly validating the debt and then work out a settlement such that the debt will be voided and remove all credit reporting relating to the debt, correct? I understand how that would make the debt collector settle the case, but I don't see how that will force the hospital to take action. They don't care about the debt collector violating the FDCPA; they want their money (putting aside the fact that they already got it).

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ThiftySpender said:   I see that the Hospital billed me twice for the $1000.00  Hospital did not respond to phone calls or e-mails for over a week so I initiated a dispute with the credit card company. 

Fast forward to January and Chase finishes their chargeback investigation and tells me that they have not accepted the chargeback because the merchant corrected the error. 

 

  
I'm a little confused
Did 1 transaction (for $2,000) or 2 transactions appear on your statement?
The Merchant corrected their error.... aka, 1 of the $1,000 transactions was removed?
Assuming so, follow up with Chase, and re-open your chargeback request.  Reason Code 75: Transaction Not Recognized .
Either the hospital will fight to keep it's $1,000 billed on Nov 16.  And in doing so, provide a copy of the invoice.
Or they won't fight, you get your second $1,000 back, and then you can properly pay them.

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camiolo said:   
ThiftySpender said:   I see that the Hospital billed me twice for the $1000.00  Hospital did not respond to phone calls or e-mails for over a week so I initiated a dispute with the credit card company. 

Fast forward to January and Chase finishes their chargeback investigation and tells me that they have not accepted the chargeback because the merchant corrected the error. 

 

  
I'm a little confused
Did 1 transaction (for $2,000) or 2 transactions appear on your statement?
The Merchant corrected their error.... aka, 1 of the $1,000 transactions was removed?
Assuming so, follow up with Chase, and re-open your chargeback request.  Reason Code 75: Transaction Not Recognized .
Either the hospital will fight to keep it's $1,000 billed on Nov 16.  And in doing so, provide a copy of the invoice.
Or they won't fight, you get your second $1,000 back, and then you can properly pay them.

  They billed my credit card for 2 $1000 transactions.  I had also thought about your suggestion -- just disputing the second charge as well -- but at this point, if I "win" that dispute and repay them the $1000 by another means, then I am quite late on the actual payment of the invoice, and they may try to ding me further for paying so late.

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OP, if the collector is trying to collect a debt that was double charged and has been paid, it is a slam dunk case. They can't possibly validate the debt, they made false or misleading representations, etc... Look at the fdcap for what other violations may have occurred, failure to validate, improper credit reporting if applicable.

The debt collector is going to fold. The hospital may or may not get the hint, but sometimes they'll send another collector after you. If you get a lawyer, most would cover the filing fee, but either way that is recoverable in a settlement, so I wouldn't get hung up about having the perfect case. You are solid

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