How to Remove Medical Debt Collections From Credit Reports
Medical debt can be a huge problem for those trying to build up their credit scores to buy a home. Hospitals will often sell medical debts to collection agencies—even when those debts have been paid!
I personally had over $80,000 worth of medical debt go to collections after a car wreck. These bills ended up going to medical debt collection agencies and firms before the litigation was complete. Even though all my medical debts were paid off in my settlement, medical debt collection calls and letters still come rolling in, even though the bills have been paid. Over the years I have managed to get these all removed.
Medical debt collection is profit, for both the doctors and hospitals that sell your debt and the collection agencies who hound you for payment. Hospitals sell your medical debt for pennies on the dollar to collection agencies. These agencies pursue you for the full amount owed. even though they bought your debt for only a fraction of that.
Both hospitalls and medical collection agencies continue to 'double dip' and sporadically hit my credit report for old debts that have already been paid. I ended up finding an easy way to get medical debt removed. After dealing with double-dipping, money-hungry debt collection agencies, you learn a few things.
Do You Have a Medical Debt That Has Gone to Collections?
Questioning Medical Debts
I run my credit reports every year, and you should too. You can obtain a copy from all three credit bureaus once a year. This is where you can make note of all the debt collections, who owns them, and their contact information.
A red flag for me on my credit report was a large medical debt collection from the birth of my son. At the time I was covered with Blue Cross Blue Shield through work, as well as qualifying for pregnancy Medicaid that picked up the balance left by my insurance. There was no way the bill was legit; I did not owe that debt.
When I dealt with that particular debt, I found an easy way to remove medical debts in collection from my credit report.
Initially, I contacted Medicaid, as they should have picked up the balance owed for the medical procedure. They said that without an original bill, they could not assist me. So I sent a very well-written and polite email to the medical debt collection agency. Since I knew Medicaid would pay the debt, I had no fear of contacting the medical debt agency for an original bill.
Two days later I received a reply. The medical debt collection agency informed me they could not provide me with an original bill, and said they had been forced to delete my debt collection account. Something amazing and crazy had happened. The debt quickly vanished off my credit report in less than a week.
The HIPAA Loophole
Somehow I had managed to get a huge medical debt removed off my credit report with ease. Having no clue how I managed it so easily, I did a bit of research. HIPAA regulations in the United States prevent any medical documentation to be shared. That means that when the hospital sold the debt to the medical collection agency or firm that is all they got, just the debt. No information, no details. Just the dollar amount, and the date that it was acquired.
Oh sweet HIPAA regulations! We all sign a HIPAA form when we go to the doctor or a hospital. This form states that we only allow them to discuss our medical information with whomever we put on the form. Well guess what? That medical debt collection agency does not have permission to access your medical information. So they could not provide the needed information to get the debt paid, once I asked the right questions.
More Advice About Dealing With Medical Debt
Since my first successful removal of a collection report, I have learned a bit more about how to dispute medical debts in collection.
I do not recommend sending an email like I did in the story above. Here are some basic rules to follow when dealing with medical debt collection agencies:
- Avoid calling collection agencies.
- Send well-written, non-aggressive letters disputing the debt.
- Send only Certified Mail, with signature confirmation.
- Make copies In triplicate.
- Use a budget planner to track the date you send each letter to each debt collector.
I keep a budget planning notebook. Writing out each individual medical debt and all the information in the ledger really helps you to organize the information you find on your credit report. It allows me to separate the smaller collections from the larger. It also allows me to separate them by date and company. If you have multiple debts going to the same medical collection company you can send multiple letters at once. You will easily be able to mark the collections off when you receive a reply.
Writing a Medical Debt Validation Letter
There are a few thing to keep in mind when sending a medical dispute letter. I got lucky with my first one and they removed the debt. Here are a few things to include in your letter:
- I am requesting that (medical debt collection firm name) provide debt validation for (account number listed on credit report).
- Debt validation in the form of an original bill and detailed statement of procedures is required.
- Debt Validation should be received no later than 30 days from receipt of this request.
- If (medical collection firm name) can not provide adequate validation withing the 30-day time frame, all debts should be immediately removed from all three major credit reports.
- I request all further correspondence regarding this debt collection to be sent via mail. Do not contact me by phone.
Giving the firm 30 days is just polite; you need to at least give them two weeks to meet your demands. Always be polite in any contact with a medical debt collection agency. No need to be rude; more than likely they will be deleting your debt.
Always send letters certified mail with signature required. It may be tempting to just mail a standard letter to a medical debt collection agency, but if you fail to send a certified letter, there is no record of you sending your validation letter, which makes it impossible to prove the debt collector received it.
If you do not receive a reply within the allotted time, you move on to the next step. This is where you need your copies in triplicate, and your certified mail receipts.
Removing Those Medical Debts for Good
Once you have mailed your letters, one of two things will happen: either you will get a letter stating the debt has been deleted, or they will validate your debt. And if your debt is a medical debt, they just stepped in it by validating it!
What to Do When a Medical Debt Is Validated
Now here is where it gets fun: if by chance a medical collection does provide you with the details of your medical bill they are in direct violation of HIPAA regulations, facing fines (payable to you) of up to $1,000.00! Even possible jail time. Send a follow-up letter stating that you know they have directly violated the regulations of the HIPAA Act of 1996. Inform them that you never signed a HIPAA form to authorize them to have access to the information. You may also include that you intend to pursue filing a legal complaint unless they immediately delete this item from your report and stop all attempts to collect. Of course, you want that in writing too.
What to Do If the Medical Collection Agency Fails to Reply
If the medical debt collection agency fails to reply to your letter, you have a bit of work to do. This is where your Certified Mail receipts come in handy, plus those triplicate letters. Now you will compose a letter to all the major credit bureaus: this is why I said "copies in triplicate." You can make copies of your certified mail receipts to send as well.
Your letter should state that you made an attempt to validate a debt on your credit report. Say that you have yet to receive any validation or reply from the medical collection agency, since they have failed to comply with your request, or even contact you. Ask that the debt be immediately removed. It is also a good idea to include your contact information for followup from the bureaus. Be polite: no debt collector or someone at a bureau is going to respond nicely to any hostile letters.
What if the Debt Collector Agrees to Delete My Debt but Does Not
This is approached the same was as failure to reply. In this case you send a copy of the agreement to delete the debt—in addition to all your other paperwork of course.
As Easy as Sending a Letter
Simple as that. A simple well-written validation letter can do a lot of good. Keep in mind that it is possible that a newer medical collection can be sent back to the hospital or doctor that had it to begin with. I have not had that happen personally.
Just make sure to keep up with a budget notebook ledger. Keep detailed notes, and of course the big one 'signature confirmation' on certified mail! Sure it will cost a few dollars worth of postage to get the ball rolling. Well worth it to see your credit score improve when all those old medical debts are removed from your credit report! Every medical debt removed will help to raise your credit scores!
Never deal with any debt collectors over the phone. Even if you pay them, without anything in writing, they do not have to remove the collection from your credit reports. Always deal with debt collection firms via the mail, never on the phone.