Debt Finances & Money

Swearing at the Bill Collector

Tuesday night a good example of my new positive attitude.

I’m the type of person who has ALWAYS paid their bills on-time. I always pay early, just so I can get it off my mind. And I tend to know what debts I have outstanding or what’s on tap to hit my wallet over the next few months. That’s why a phone call caught me off guard.

Shortly after getting home from work, I got a call on the home phone. It was a guy from an orthopedic shop that supplied my back brace for my herniated disks last December. He said he was the last person before it goes to collections.

The $405 Corset

As some background, I’ve never received a direct bill from this provider. I saw that on my medical plan’s statement of benefits back in January that they had billed them $405 for the back brace! It’s basically the same corset you can buy at Walmart, but with some extra support rods. I’d say it was worth maybe $30 tops.

What was worse was that my insurance only covered 80%. In the end, after the negotiated rate, etc., I owed $125. I was mad because the orthopedic surgeon basically brought in the corset, fitted it on me and sent me home without even checking if my insurance covered it. And because of that situation, I filed an appeal with my insurance company.

I wrote to them, explaining that I was unaware that the back brace was not being provided by the doctor, but rather by a third party, and that the doctor (who IS part of their network) did not inform me of the fact. I asked that the back brace be covered as in-network.

I got a letter in February from my insurance company stating that they accepted the appeal and would cover the brace 100% (i.e. it would be in-network for this occurence). Whew! So I figured the insurance would cover it and let it go at that.

The Bill Collector

So when the bill collector informed me that I owed them $125, and my account would be sent to collections, one of the first things out of my mouth was:

“You better not F*** up my credit score!”

Yeah, not one of my shining moments, and now I owe the swear jar $5. Dang!

But I was livid. How could it have gone 11 months (since December) without even getting a bill and then it’s one step from collections??? Who made a mistake?

So I went through my files and asked him to call me back. I think he was nervous and thought I would start ignoring his calls (he’s probably used to that), but I assured him I had a bunch of papers to look through and I was using up cellphone minutes (which I was). I found all the paperwork, including the letter from my insurance stating it was covered fully now.

While I waited, I called up my insurance company, got through to a helpful CR and found out that sure enough, their system said it’s covered 100%. However, there was no record of payment. She said she would escalate the issue to the appeals manager to rectify the payment issue and it would be handled within 7 days. So, it was the insurance company’s fault.

I called the bill collector back (he called while I was on the phone) and informed him of what happened. We agreed to speak again in 9 days (7 business days) to see if it was resolved. I told him I was worried that he would jump the gun and send it to collections before it had enough time to be resolved, but he assured me that he would give it adequate time “as long as we maintained contact with each other”.

I’m still really ticked that I’m being treated like a common vagrant simply because their billing office couldn’t send a reminder bill, much less an initial bill. I can understand that they just know they weren’t paid, but when the payor isn’t even aware of his debt for 11 months (or 9 months after it should have been discharged), how is he supposed to pay?

So the lesson learned here is don’t trust that other people are looking out for your interests. Follow up on everything until it is resolved, or else risk your bill going to collections without adequate time to work it out.

See, I can still be positive because I know I can always learn from mistakes 🙂

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I just had the exact same thing happen to me for the doctor’s portion of an ER bill. It’s so frustrating b/c you know that it’s not your fault, and here people are calling you like you’re some kind of deadbeat.
    All ended well though- but document, document, document!

  • I got a letter from an attorney four YEARS after I supposedly used services at a hospital I knew I had never used. The letter stated that “I had had more than enough time to pay this bill and it had been turned over to him for collection”!

    I was beyond furious, and wrote to them to tell them so. I told them that I pay every bill that I receive and had received no bill from them and furthermore I had no idea what they were talking about, I had not received any services at this hospital and four years after the fact was a little late to be informing me of this matter now.

    Then I accused them of just sending out random bills to random people, figuring if they collected anything from anyone they were that much further ahead and told them if I heard from them again I would report them to the Attorney General for fraud. I heard no more from them and it never showed up on my credit report.

    Some time later it occurred to me that the timing might have been at a time that my daughter had hurt her ankle and I had taken her to an ER for x-rays to make sure it wasn’t broken. But since that time the hospital had changed hands and changed names.

    I guess this lawyer had been hired to collect old debts but that didn’t change the fact that I never got a bill that I didn’t pay, and if he had written a decent letter looking for information I would have gladly talked to him, but since he started out with such an accusing tone it never even occurred to me that it was legitimate. I just thought he was scamming people and wondered how many people got scared by his letter and paid bills they didn’t owe.

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