UNPAID MEDICAL BILLS AND YOUR PRIVACY-HIPAA AMENDMENTS
Medical collections may become more difficult for collection agencies to collect and useful for debtors in clearing up their credit records.
The Privacy Rule requires a "business associate" (collection agency or billing firm) to reasonably limit the amount of information disclosed for such purposes to the minimum necessary as well as to abide by reasonable requests for confidential communications.
This could be a loophole for debtors against collection agencies because collection employees often know less about their industry restrictions than does the debtor. This could lead to violations and eventually case law to support such violations. If collection agency employees are not careful, they could lose out on collecting medical debts by inadvertently knowing too much about the debtors medical condition. This will no doubt lead to many consumers seeking that the debts be pulled back by the medical provider to avoid potential suits against the provider.
Debtors who know how to protect themselves will use this provision to threaten collectors and gain the upper hand in settling the debt without it hitting their credit reports. Basically, debtors who discover that the collector knows their diagnosis and treatment will threaten the agency that their privacy has been violated. The agency, wanting to avoid unnecessary suits will most likely agree to remove the negative entry on the consumers credit report by agreeing to settle with such terms. The debtor will gain a clearer credit report by having the item removed rather than listed as "paid collection".
Your Health Information and Your Credit Report
Can my information be disclosed to a collection agency?
Yes. When you put on that faded cotton gown and sit on the examining table, you are the patient. But, your role could change to many other things, including that of debtor. You visit your doctor and pay for health insurance premiums so that you are assured of care in an emergency or in case of an illness. But, your relationship is also a business arrangement.
You are obligated to pay for any costs not covered by your health insurance. Remember : Your consent is not required to disclose information from your medical files if it is made in connection with payment.
An unpaid bill, like any other debt claimed to be owed, may be reported to a collection agency. What's more, an unpaid medical bill can appear as a negative entry on your credit report. Information that can be disclosed to a collection agency about you includes:
A recent study by the Federal Reserve found that over half of all collections noted on credit reports were for unpaid medical bills,
Can I dispute a medical bill?
Unfortunately, the federal law that enables consumers to dispute billing errors does not apply to medical bills. The Fair Credit Billing Act only applies to credit cards accounts and revolving charge accounts. But that does not mean that you cannot dispute billing errors.
The medical billing and insurance claims processes can be complicated and confusing. Be sure to stay on top of your medical bills and dispute matters in writing with both the health provider and insurance company when you think errors have been made. Try to get the matter resolved before the debt is reported to a collection agency and/or to the credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion).
If a medical debt is reported to a collection agency, you have rights given by credit and collection laws. Federal laws are the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. State laws might also apply.
Ok thanks. Was just wondering if there was any way to gain leverage. BTW- the final two small collections I owe are for serv. where ins. wouldn't pay, and silly me didn't even think to appeal to ins. co- at the time I was very stubbor (again dumb me) and on principle said I wouldn't pay it- again DUMB ME!!!
Noah_Bodie wrote:If you've been reading the whychat letter, skip it. Been debated on CB and CIC, general consensus seems to be it has no standing at all.