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How to Remove Medical Debt Collections From Credit Reports

Updated on September 24, 2016

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?

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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.

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    • Matt Easterbrook5 profile image

      Matthew A Easterbrook 9 months ago from Oregon

      Cynthia you brought up some great points and ideas in your hub. My very first book that I published Financial Revolution I give the individual consumer step by step methods that work on how to settle and eliminate debt. I think this book would be very helpful too you and others that are wanting to,get rid of debt and improve their credit scores. Have a great day.

    • jtrader profile image

      jtrader 9 months ago

      Good information Cynthia.

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 9 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Thank you Matt, and jtrader for reading! It can be a daunting task, but well worth the effort in the end!

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      9 months ago

      Thank you for the guidance. I just received a letter from FBCS correspondence department stating their client has no available documentation, so they've closed it as a dispute and sent the file back to our client. Their letter further states that future correspondence should be sent to CF medical, llc. in Sherman, Texas.....It further states that is an attempt to collect a debt and any information received will be used for that purpose. This is a communication from a debt collection company.....Now what do I do?

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 9 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      I would wait until you are contacted by the company it reverts to before deciding what action to take. How old is the collection? What is your state's statue of limitations on debt collections? Are you prepared to make payments, if the debt is one you legitimately owe? So many things factor in to how you should proceed.

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      lisalosangeles 8 months ago

      hi - Very informative article, thank you! Question - Is there a law we can quote to the Credit Bureaus when we write to them that the collector of the medical bill has failed to provide validation of the debt?

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 8 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Thank you lisalosangeles for stopping by, I am glad that you found my article informative! That is a fantastic question. The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) is your legal basis for the removal of the debt when contacting the credit bureaus. Assuming the debt collection agencies were unable to validate the debt then you contact the three credit bureaus and attach all the copies I mentioned making as well as sending copies of your signature confirmation where you mailed the letters to the debt collectors. Politely ask the bureaus to remove the debts from you credit report in compliance with the FCRA. Also inform them that you have attached all records of your attempt to validate the debt with the collection agency and they have failed to comply within the 30 day time frame you have given them. This is why it is so important to do everything via the mail with signature confirmation certified mail. So you have undisputed evidence that you did in fact attempt to get the debt validated, and the agency has failed to do so.

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      sheldon needleman 8 months ago

      hello i read your article on med debt collection well written great i have one quesastion the signature confirnmation part is it my signature on the letter or there signature a liitle confused thks alot

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 8 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      sheldon needleman it is the debt collection agencies signature you need. When you send a letter certified mail you should also get signature confirmation. This way when they fail to respond, or are unable to validate the debt you can show proof by way of their signature to the credit bureaus that they did in fact receive your request for them to validate the debt and failed to validate or send a response within a 30 day time frame. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I do hope I have cleared up any confusion for you.

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      Hi Cynthia 6 months ago

      I received a document from the collection agency with information like procedures and tests performed. Is this a violation of my rights if I didn't authorize them to retrieve this information from the alleged creditor?

      Your assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks,

      Tonys

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 6 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Tonys is the letter from a collection agency, or the collection department for the hospital where the procedures and tests were performed? If they are indeed from a third party debt collection agency, then you rights under the 1996 HIPAA Act have been violated. You have several options as to how you want to proceed:

      1. Send a letter explaining in detail that your rights have been violated, be as specific as possible. Explain that in validating the debt they directly violated the HIPAA act. Give them 30 days to remove the debt from your credit report or you will file charges in accordance with the HIPAA act. Include that you want a written agreement from them on company letterhead that the debt will be removed and they will no longer attempt to collect the debt.

      2. You can also add in the letter, that you are currently pursuing charges and filing suit against the debt collection agency. Though it is best to try and get the debt removed without pursuing charges ~ unless you have the funds to actually pursue litigation against the collection agent.

      Worst case is that the debt will be kicked back to the original creditor. Though the majority of Collection Agencies will likely remove the collection off your credit report to avoid any litigation as they have directly violated your rights under HIPAA.

      Remember all correspondence should be done via the USPS with signature confirmation, not over the telephone. Hope this helps you sort out the situation!

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      Katie 6 months ago

      I cannot find my account information in the credit report. How can I get that? It has the first 4 numbers on the credit report followed by XXXX

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 6 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Katie you do not need an account number from your credit report! Any accounts on your credit reports should have information on the original creditor or debt collection agency. You should have access to the name of the company holding/pursuing the debt and their address.

      I also find a credit karma profile to be helpful as well. not as accurate as a credit report, yet it gives detailed contact information for all your creditors and debt collectors in a much more user friendly template than an actual credit report (especially a printed one). Credit reports can be a bit hard to follow in printed form.

      I hope that helps. Account numbers are not listed in their entirety to protect consumers.

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      6 year old medical acct 6 months ago

      i live in california as i did some research i understand there is a 4 year statute of litmatation on medical debt to collect , does that statute also applies to credits reports and they have to remove it after 4 years cal 4 year rule thkas alot sheldon n

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 6 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Sheldon, if it is indeed past the statue of limitation for California then you can simply dispute any debts, medical or otherwise with the credit bureaus for removal. Use the reason that it is past the statue of limitations for collection.

      However, the medical debt can still be shipped off to a collection agency. Every time a a debt is placed with a collection agency the statue of limitations starts over with the first day they place the debt on your credit report. By all means dispute it for removal and then if it pops back up request that the collection agency validates the debt. Odds are with a medical debt that old they will be unable to provide any information.

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      Drea 5 months ago

      Are you able to give a detailed outline of the letter to send? I'm not usually good with this type of thing and I'd like to be sure I'm wording things appropriately.

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 5 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      There are many templates for debt validation letters available online. It does not have to be anything fancy, or perfect by any means! I am no expert, but I will share what has worked for me with my medical debt collectors.

      For example:

      Dear (Medical Debt Collection Agencies Name and/or the individual's name from the agency that contacted you),

      I am writing you in regards to a recent correspondence regarding a medical debt. The account number is (insert the numbers you find under account on your credit report, or on the debt collection letter you have received) also put the date of the debt as listed on the collections.

      I am requesting that the medical debt account in question be verified, and proved to be a valid debt, for services I received (be sure to never say 'this debt is not mine, or anything admitting that the debt in question is in fact yours).

      Please provide documentation to validate this medical debt collection account no later than (two weeks from the date you are mailing the letter - to 30 days). If you cannot validate this medical debt I am requesting its prompt removal from my credit reports within (30 days is best).

      Please send all supporting validation documents to (include your name and address here). I am requesting that all further correspondence be done via mail with the USPS, and no contact should be made to my place of work, or my home phone.

      Then sign with something like 'Thank you for your time and understanding, followed by your name'.

      All you really need in the letter is a request for validation of the debt, the account information that you do have and your timeline. Timeline of removal or validation, make sure you send your letter signature required via certified mail! If the debt collection agency fails to validate your debt a copy of the signature (this way they cannot deny that you attempted to validate) and a copy of the validation letter will be what you submit to the credit bureaus for removal of the debt.

      I save mine as a template on my laptop, this way it is easy to just pop in the info for each debt collection agency and account numbers and print two copies. Then I just do the same for each medical debt that continues to pop up! Always mark a calendar with your times so you can always stay on top of who has replied by the deadline in your letter and who has not.

      Also keep the removals for your records, the credit bureaus will send you confirmation when they remove any debt that you have disputed. So later on if it pops up again, you can use having it removed already for lack of validation as a way to get the medical debt collection agency to remove it.

      7 years later, and I still have the same old medical debts pop up on my report! So always keep copies of what you have had removed!

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      Courtney 2 months ago

      Do you have a sample of the letter you sent back about the HIPPA rights? I 3 places respond and immediately remove from credit report but I had a few that sent me medical information with their letter.

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      Leticia Nicholson 2 months ago

      What if you medical bills were reported by the collection department of the hospital and are correctly paid? How would I get those removed from the credit report?

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      Ashley 2 months ago

      What if they have the hospital send proof?

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      Jenevieve90 2 months ago

      Hi, do you have a copy of the hippa letter so I can send one for myself? My email is jenthoby@yahoo.com

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 8 weeks ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Leticia, if you are getting collections notices from a hospital and have already paid these debts you can contact the hospitals billing department directly. There are times these are an oversight by an automated system that kicks out the billing notices. I have had a few similar debts show up and a simple call to the hospitals collections/billing department was enough to have these cleared up.

      It is a good idea to keep any and all documentation for medical procedures, doctors appointments and especially receipts for any payments you have made. It maybe something they want a copy of in order to remove the debt, or mark it as paid in their systems.

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 8 weeks ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Ashley, as I mention in the article you need to weight the pro's and con's prior to requesting debt validation. If you do in fact owe the debt, and a hospital validates then you have no recourse for having said medical debts removed. It is then up to you to negotiate a payment plan or possibly negotiate to settle the debt for a fraction of what you owe in order to have the debt removed from your credit reports.

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 8 weeks ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Jenevieve90 you will find a section of my article that covers writing a debt validation letter to send to debt collection agencies. If you have already sent a validation letter and the debt remains unverified you would dispute the debt for removal directly with the three major credit bureaus. I hope this answers your question, if not please feel free to comment again and I will do my very best to assist you with the information you need.

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      Joann Mac 8 weeks ago

      Thank you for this information. Question...I have requested from the collection company (via certified mail) Information about this debt, including 1)whom I owe the debt to 2)age of debt 3)details about their authority to collect this debt. Their response letter consisted of the name of medical institution, account number, and a "Special Release of Medical Information" for me to fill out, as this was for my 17 year old daughter. No other information that I requested was returned to me. My question is, do I fill out this form to release medical records? She is now of age, I'm not sure if they are requesting this information because of HIPPA or some other reason. This debt is in my name not hers. Should I call the medical institution and inquire, as this is the first I have received ANY bill or any correspondence from anyone. I came to the conclusion this bill is over 4 years old, due to it being my daughter and the facility. How should I proceed? Thank you in advance.

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      Diva67 4 weeks ago

      I have a few med bill collections and was wondering if you could share with me a solid med bill validation letter template and also a

      HIPPA follow up letter (delete from ccreport). I have sent a validation letter requesting as much information about the actual debt and received the following info from the agencies:

      Agency 1:

      Sent a copy of services provided:

      1. emergency visit including lab work provided

      Did they break the HIPPA laws above sharing with this information?

      Collection agency 2.

      Send copies only of hospital collections. (Hospital name, date of service and nothing else)

      I have no clue what these charges are as they include 20 of them. Small number, but still getting up there in total amount.

      What is the exact definition of HIPPA and what can I do with agency 2. How will I know the services provided. Should I ask for a financial responsibility letter signed for this? Nothing has been filed against me (judgement), so Im wondering if they do not have enough info on this debt. What other info could I ask for to validate this better and get better chances of getting this off my report?

      Thanks and have a wonderful day!

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 3 weeks ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Diva67 Thank you so much for your reply. As you can imagine it is extremely difficult for me to really offer opinions on personal situations since I am not physically looking at any documents that were sent to people. I will do my best to see if I can point you in the right direction. First off if this debt is currently with your doctors office and not a debt collection agency I would suggest not pursuing it further. There is no perfect letter or template to send regarding debt validation, if you refer back to the information in my article it covers everything you need to include when contacting debt collection agencies.

      The HIPAA ACT covers the following areas of your personal information:

      The information your doctors, nurses, and other health care providers put in your medical record regardless of how long ago the information was recorded. Any conversations your doctor has with nurses and other staff about your care or treatment and procedures regardless of if you are in front of them, or after you have left the office. Information held in your health insurance companies computer system database that involves your health. Your personal billing information that is on file at your clinic or personal doctors office. Most health information about you, your procedures that is held by those who must follow federal privacy and security laws specifically pertaining to health information.

      Those are just a few examples of what is covered by 'The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)'. More detailed information is easily accessible on the web and you can find the complete HIPAA ACT by searching. I really hope that helps.

      As far as judgments filed, I doubt that will happen. If your medical debt is now in collections that debt collection agency 'purchased' your debt from your Doctor, or the hospital you were treated at. They paid as little as $0.01 per every $1.00 you owed. For example if you owed a office visit charge for $100.00 and it goes to collections, the debt collection agency likely paid $1.00-$5.00 to take over that debt and pursue you for it. So it is usually uncommon for a medical debt collection agency to pursue judgements in court. It is not a worthwhile cost investment for them to file charges since they have so little invested in the debt to begin with (and litigation can drag out for months, costing more in man hours than your debt was ever worth).

      I really hope I helped clear some things up for you and pointed you in the right direction! Please always feel free to comment and I will do my best to help in anyway I can.

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      Sam P. 9 days ago

      In doing some of my own research I have read that by sending a letter to the collections agency requesting debt validation in the form of an original bill, you are giving them permission under HIPAA to access your medical information and provide it to you. In your experience does this sound true?

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
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      Cynthia Hoover 8 days ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Sam P. You should be requesting that they validate the debt. If a debt is held with a debt collection agency and not the original Doctor or Hospital you have never filled out a HIPAA release form with the debt collection agency. So I am unsure where you are finding this information in your research. In fact any debt collection agency that provides you any of your medical information in order to verify the debt, is in direct violation of the HIPAA act, and should they provide any such information subject to prosecution and fines should you choose to pursue them.

      I have heard of debt collection agencies attempting to get people to fill out a medical release form, after they have mailed in a debt validation letter. However, you are under no obligation to fill a medical release form out for any medical debt being held with a collection agency or firm. The burden of proof is on the debt collection agency to provide you with validation to the debt in question. In no way are you obligated to fill out a medical release for them to do so.

      I hope this helps clear up your questions!

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      Sam P. 84 minutes ago

      Thank you Cynthia. After going back to the website where I read that info I realized that it was written by an attorney who represents a large collections agency in the U.S. and may have been written for the purpose of scaring people away from disputing medical debt. I guess it worked because it scared me at first.

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