41 answers

Need Legal Advice on Hospital Bills

I had a preemie in Oct. who racked up some medical bills, while on his 3 week stay in the hospital. thankfully my insurance will not allow me to spend more than 3000 a year on these bills. But, I just started back to work in Jan. and they are calling wanting 100 a month. This may not sound like much, but when it is being demanded from like 6-7 different people, it is alot! I am sending them each like 20 a month, for now. Me and my husband do make a decent living, but we borrowed from a brother to allow me to stay home for as long as i did and i would rather pay him promptly! So, my question is, can they turn my account over to a collection agency since i am unable to meet their "obligation" of 100 a month? I have told them I can only make 20, but they keep arguing and threatening to send to collections. I don't want to ruin my credit, but I can't give them more at this time!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I know the hospital I went to divided my bill by 12 month and made me pay it back that way, but it was not a very large bill ($43 a month to pay back in 12 months). They should be willing to work something out with you since it is a higher bill, and if they are not, I would contact the head of the hospital, rather than the billing department. I think they have to take what you are able to give them.

Pay them what you can. As long as you are making an effort to pay them, they shouldn't(and probably won't, unless you miss a month) send you to collections. I've been through issues like these numerous times.
You can call the companys (for the bills) and set up a payment plan with them.

Let them send you to collections. As bad as that sounds that is what i had to do to get the phone calls stopped. As long as you paying something each month they shouldnt be able to do anything. As long as you are paying.

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Hi M., I've been an RN for 35 yrs. so I will give you some advice that I'm sure hospitals do not want known!! First, request an itemized account of EVERYDAY you & baby were in. Check it over & make sure you received every procedure, bandage & pill you took (very important) Dispute anything that you know you did not receive. Next, set up every month an amount that you can pay. DO NOT be late. (They'll use it against you!)As long as you pay every month, there is nothing they can do to you. In good faith your doing your part! Don't let anyone bully you. Be polite, let them know you want to pay it off & this is the best you can do. Little story..I was in for a hysterectomy with complications. I was charged for abdominal dressing changes, 2 times a day for 5 days which equaled $1200.00 plus Demerol injections 3 times a day for 3 days for $450.00. Hmmmm... I had a VAGINAL hysterectomy (NO dressing changes) and Demerol pills 2 times a day for 2 days. I had to pay 20% of my total hospital bill, so every cent counts. Of course, it was taken off. Hope this helps, you can do it!! C. P.

1 mom found this helpful

As long as i have known bill collectors and what they cant do, I have always been told and known from experience that as long as u pay them something every month , then they cannot turn you over to collections! If you are paying faithfully then they cant, but once you miss a payment, they will! I know from experience with that also! You can pay them $10 a month and that will still be ok as long as you make your payments on time!


I was hoping someone else would answer with more concrete advice than I can give. It is my understanding (simply from having had a lot of hospital bills) that they cannot send it to collections unless you are paying nothing. If you are sending $20/month to each person that is billing you, that shows you are trying. It won't stop them from calling, of course. If you are trying your best, then you just do what you can and screen your calls if that will increase your peace of mind.

I've had some money issues before. The only thing I can say is to call whoever and explain to them your situation. Most times they will work with you and lower the monthly payments. Don't talk to anybody who calls you. Generally they don't have the power (and most times the will) to help you. Ask for supervisors when you call. Don't be afraid to use the I-just-had-a-baby-who-was-premature card either. They are goign to use everything in their power to screw you so do not underestimate the power fo manipulation... and if you have to, throw in some tears too! :) Good luck!

do what I did. We took all of your finachal statements (All teh stuff you give the IRS) and showed them how much we actually made. We told them that we were willing to pay the whole amount, but that we didn't have the money to pay the amounts they wanted. Remember that whatever help they give you is a kindness on their part. You might also want to get an itemized bill that doen't have any "misc." om it. I was charged for a circumcision as well as dialisist (that thing they do when you liver stops working when you get old) when my daughter was born. It happens all the time, so check.

Welcome to the club. I had $7000 out of pocket with my emergency daughter, then I contracted a viral infection from the epidural resulting eye site loss and temproay facial paralsis, and another weeks stay and another 3000, however they did find a tumor in a facial gland, bang another 2000 to have that removed.
Everyone wants their money now, some have sent it to collections, and there for I don't pay them a dime until I pay off the others 1st. I pay the people that have been kind enough to work with me. As a matter of fact, just yesterday I received a collection letter on $80 dollars. Half the bill has been paid, and I sent money every time a bill came 2 of 2. After I told them I wouldn't be sending any money at this time if it continued to go thru collections, they contacted them and canceled it.
Most hospitals have some type of finance? I just after 1 year found out I might receive help. They sent a huge form to fill out with bank info, pay stubs, financial obligations etc. Now I am waiting to hear back if they will help, or just be patient with the smaller payments. Just keep talking ! Don't ignore the letters or phonecalls

Let them send you to collections. As bad as that sounds that is what i had to do to get the phone calls stopped. As long as you paying something each month they shouldnt be able to do anything. As long as you are paying.

I had some friends who had probs with some stuff too. They were told that as long as they pay something it would keep them from being turned in. All companies will demand an amount, but as long as you don't go without paying they can't turn you in. They said it was a headache, but they couldn't afford what the people wanted. So they did a lesser amount to begin with.

make sure you call everyone that you owe and work out a payment plan, or maybe you can take out a loan that would be easier to pay back...most places are willing to work with you once they know you have a plan

If I've learned anything from living in Missouri, it's it not to ask everyone in the tri-state area what the law is...You will find everyone that says, "I've been through it." "I know someone that's been through it." or "I talked to a lawyer that told me..." The problem is that just because a lawyer told someone else something doesn't mean it applies to you cause laws change and situations vary. Call a lawyer and get a FREE consultation. Most lawyers are willing to give you the first visit for free and some may be willing to answer you question right over the phone w/o an office visit. Also, state laws vary. Good luck!

my husband and i are taking the dave ramsey financial peace seminar; he says as long as you are communicating with the bill collectors and are attepting to pay your bill, they legally cannot turn it over to collection agencies; you may want to send them a document in writing stating what you are agreeing to pay them monthly just so you do have a backup

They can turn you over to a collection agency BUT as long as you tell the collection agency what you are able to pay at this time and you continue to meet that obligation every month it will not ruin your credit. WHATEVER you do, don't be late on a payment or miss a payment because then the agreement becomes null and void and the collection agency can demand payment in full and then that is when they can affect your credit rating. The collection agency may continue to call you even though you have an arrangement, and all that will do is drive you crazy, not ruin your credit.

I have a friend that is going through this same thing. Seven years ago, her daughter was very sick and had to have several hospital stays. They did not have insurance, so the bill was pretty large. They have been making payments this whole time, but like you, there were several different bills that accumulated b/c of this illness. The hospital sold her debt to a lawyers office. Now the lawyers office is trying to collect. They even added to the debt for "lawyers fees". Two weeks ago, at of the blue, they (the lawyers office) garnished my friends and her kids' bank accounts to pay on the debt. My friend closed that account and asked for a court date to try and resolve this issue. They went to court last week and were granted part of their money back, but they did not forgive the debt. They are required to pay $25 a month until the debt is paid ( which will take MANY years). I don't know all of the legal do's and don'ts, but I thought it might help if you knew what had happened to someone in a simular situation. I will pray that God will help you get through this diffucult financial time.

Keep the contact going with the hospital. Let them know $20 is all you can afford and don't back down. Yes they want their money but you also need to live as well. We went through a similar situation and set up an automatic withdrawl for 25$ and eventually it was paid down, took a while, but the phone calls stopped and I was happier. Having a new baby is stressful enough without this on top. Good luck and let us know what happened.

We had a hospital bill that was a lot less than yours and I kind of thought that as long as you were sending something they couldn't send you to collections. Evidently in CA that is not the case. I made payments of $50 every month for 3 months and was sent to collections. I do not know if it would have shown up on my credit since I went ahead and borrowed the money from my parents to pay them off before anything could happen to our credit. I work in the mortgage business and I do know that medical collections are not looked at real closely especially if you are paying on the account; but it will affect your credit score. Most important is to take care of yourself and the baby!! Don't worry about the hospital or phone calls and send what you can every month!!

I believe that as long as you are making an attempt to pay the bills they cant turn you over to collections. This is what I have been told in the past. They should be happy that you are paying them anything.

Hi M.,

I use to work for a hospital as a patient account rep. and they can turn you over to collections but if you talk to them and let them know your situation maybe you will find someone with a heart that will help you. I guess I wasn't good at the job because I always wanted to help people and accepted whatever they could afford to pay. Just make sure you send your payment every month and don't be late more than likely they won't send you to collections. I myself, had a bill that I couldn't afford to pay upfront and I just sent them $10 a month and they only sent me to collections because my payment was late which was my mistake. I wish you the best!!

My father died in October of 2006, and my mother just this March and believe me you, I have dealt with my share of hospital bills and doctors offices, etc. Their bills are in the millions and the hospitals have harassed and called and written letters and threatened, etc. Now I don't want to scare you at all, since the other letters seem to sound like they may be putting you at ease, but the hospitals CAN AND WILL turn you over to collections, even if you are paying a minimum payment like $20.00 a month. What they actually do is "sell your account" to another company who can collect it. My sister in law and I proptly called our lawyer, who can speak to the hospital on our behalf and do some dealing of course that we couldn't. Please call a lawyer on this and get some professional advice on this before they turn you over to collections. We didn't and wished we had. Our lawyer made payment arrangements with the proper companies and as long as we were not late, they promised (and get EVERYTHING IN WRITING!!) that they would take no further legal steps.

From what I have been told as long as you are sending them money there is nothing they can do. Even if it is only $5.00 a month. It's not like they are going to reposes your daughter or anything!Just relax and enjoy that new baby they grow up so fast.I hope everything works out.

I think as long as you are sending them something they cant send you to collections..but you may need to check with an attorney....or the credit bureaus maybe?

I understand. My husband's company switched insurance carriers when I was 8 weeks pregnant & my daughter went from $20 to $3000! I called to work out a payment plan & they had me list all my expenses & income - they took 20% off all the bill because my insurance was so crappy! I ended up paying a total of $100 a month & never got turned over to collections. They can't charge you interest either, so don't put it on your credit card. Just do what you can. Good Luck & Congrats on that new little one!

I use to work in collections and my hubby still does...
ok they will most likey NOT move you account to a collection agency as long as you are sending in something every month like clock work.... don't worry about it... trust me I know I still have some bills from when I was prego with my son. and I only pay 20 a month as well (my son is almost 4)!!!!

You just worry about taking care of that lil baby of yours... and keep paying every month... if you every get to 3rd party collections let me know. I will help you out on that.. but you won't make it that far. good luck and give that baby some lovin...

My daughter was born 8 weeks early also in Dec 2001 and did not leave the hospital until late Jan 2002. We capped our insurance max for two years. Since the bills were over $140,000 I was greatfull that we only had to come up with $7,000. The bills went to a collection agency that worked with me. Be as nice as pie to them, tell them what you can afford and then stick to it. If you can not make a payment even one month call them ahead of time and tell them what you can do that month. DO NOT MISS A PAYMENT! They will send it to collections.

Hello and Good Morning. I have recently been through a big hospital thing too.Only I had a heart attack and had to have a stent put in and I was only there for 3 days, well my little stay at the lugerious Hilton Hotel cost $37,000.00 and of course we have ( 0 ) insurance.
You said that you are giving your hospital $20.00 a month, well that is enough to show that you are making an effort, so they can not sue you.
Also, I have found out about a program, the hospitals will not tell people about them, but, you can go to the financial department of the hospital and request to sign up on their "Cherity Program". They will need your tax return papers to show your income, and then they will do a determination and they will have to reduce the amount of your bill. If your income tax shows not much income you might even get the bill wiped clean and be charged nothing.
My husband and I own a little sawmill, but our income is very little by the time we have to pay the workers and buy the timber, and supplies. Now I don't qualify for the medicaid card, but I did qualify for this charity program. So, you might want to check into this.
C. Dawson

Hello! I have gone through a similiar experience and the hospitals and some doctors will offer the charity program, in our area, it is called a hardship program. We applied for that and were only having to pay a small part of the bill in the end. It is hard enough to have a new baby, and try to take care of all that, plus going back to work, w/out worrying about this issue also. Hope this helps yout! Also, good luck with your new baby. Hold him/her every chance you get and rock them to sleep everynight! My baby is now over 6, and I don't have ANY regrets, I hardly EVER put her down the forst 6 months of her life. Children DO grow up WAY TOO fast, especially since she was a suprise(I was on the depo shot for over 8 years, never late, or forgot one, she was just a gift from God!)amd becaause of my age(I was 36) when she was born, I KNEW she would be my last child, I NEVER missed an opportunity to hold her, rock her, sing to her, eTc.


We had the same problem when my daughter was born. We promised we would send them as much as we could each month until it was paid off. We got several threatening letters so I finally called my aunt who works at a hospital in the collections department. They COULD turn you over to a collection agency but they really DON'T want to because then they will only make about 40% of what is left. I would try to call the hospital and just tell them that you are trying and also making an effort to pay (see the checks?) and then on every payment write that you are sending as much as you can. And IF you can up it a little one month then try to.

M., I read this article just a few days ago and your question reminded me of it. Apparently it is possible to negotiate with hospitals regarding your bill. Overall, the whole article was really informative. Here's the URL:



I know the hospital I went to divided my bill by 12 month and made me pay it back that way, but it was not a very large bill ($43 a month to pay back in 12 months). They should be willing to work something out with you since it is a higher bill, and if they are not, I would contact the head of the hospital, rather than the billing department. I think they have to take what you are able to give them.

In Missouri, as long as you make some kind of payment every month they can't send you to collections. Just make sure you set up a payment plan and stick to it. We had about $2,400.00 to pay after an emergency C-Section . We just explained that we could not afford high payments. We agreed to $100 a month but around the holiday months and a few after we only made $50 payments and nothing was said. My sister works at a hospital and unless it's stated somewhere on your bill that you are not allowed to make payments, you are good to go. They just need something every month even if it's $25. Good luck!!!!

As long as you are paying on the bills, they should be happy. Just explain to them that you can not afford to pay more then what you are. Congratulations on your newborn son!!, don't let them get you all upset.

Pay them what you can. As long as you are making an effort to pay them, they shouldn't(and probably won't, unless you miss a month) send you to collections. I've been through issues like these numerous times.
You can call the companys (for the bills) and set up a payment plan with them.

I had bills from my daughter's delivery. I called all of the people and told them what I could pay and some accepted that and others did not. The one that did not sent me to collections and I set up $25 a month payments with the collections people. I was told that it would not affect my credit as long as I paid on time every month. I know that it is difficult. Keep your chin up.

If you make a payment arrangement and stick to it you shouldn't have to worry about negative credit reporting. I suggest making payment arrangements with all your debtors (including your brother) and pay small amounts on all except one, on that other one you pay as much as possibly so it can get paid off and clear your credit faster. As soon as one is paid off contribute that money to another bill.

I'm pretty sure that as long as you are paying something towards your account that they can't send it to collections. I'm not a lawyer or an accountant though so I may be wrong. They are probably just trying to strongarm you into paying more.

First off, congratulations on your new baby! Please don't let all this financial "stuff" get in the way of enjoying your time with baby.

I live in Oklahoma and recently had a battery of tests done on my oldest daugher as she was complaining of constant stomach pain. Thank goodness we do have insurance but the bill was still over $300 dollars.

We live paycheck to paycheck and I started sending them $100/month. After the first month, I received a letter from a collection agency saying I had been turned over!

I called the hospital to find out why I'd been turned over even having paid $100 and was told it was because we hadn't made an agreement with them to pay out. The total bill was due and their computer system automatically kicks people over to collections REGARDLESS if they've made a payment within the last 30 days unless a payment plan is in place.

I really can't say I agree with that way of doing business. Seems like a loser for both the patient and the business.

At any rate, they said they would call the collection agency to cancel and then send me another statement from the hospital. Two months later, I was still receiving statements from the collection agency and had not received a statement from the hospital. I got tired of waiting to I started sending the payments to the address on the last hospital statement. Haven't heard anything since...from either of them!

I think it's crazy that they would turn someone over who is at least TRYING to repay. Unfortunately, they CAN turn you over even though you are sending payments. As others have suggested, try talking to someone higher up on the totem pole. Make sure you get any repayment agreement in writing.

Good luck and don't worry too much. It'll all work out in the end. Just do what you can and be calm in the knowledge that you ARE doing all you can without putting yourself in financial difficulty. Remember, that baby comes first!!

In Oklahoma a collection cannot take more than 25% of your pay check in a garnishment and only one garnishment at a time can be in effect but the intrest on the waiting bills will mount up. If a garnishment happens then there is paperwork that you can fill out to lower the payment at a hearing. Keep paying what you can and if you do have to go to court be sure to take all the reciepts you have.

It used to be that if you were at least attempting to pay something the "collectors" were supposed to leave you alone. Now they just keep calling. Remember, they cannot call you at work and tell them that on the phone if they ever do call at work. Keep plugging away at it. eventually you can get it all paid. Remember that you'll have a higher return coming since you had a baby and you can take advantage of the Advanced EIC if you are under the qualifying income level. Every penny helps.

If they are cashing your checks, they are accepting the payment plan you have proposed (via the checks you send) and they can't turn you in. They want their money now and they'll pressure you and pressure you for it, however if they are accepting your checks and cashing them, there's nothing they can really do unless you start missing payments. We've been through this more than once (I have a medically fragile child with cerebral palsy and a few other assorted diagnoses). You might be able to make the calls stop by starting each phone conversation when they call you with "This phone call is being recorded" and then informing them that you are making payments, it's all you can afford at the moment and any further harrassment on their part will force you to call an attorney. Just a thought. My husband is usually the hard*** that deals with them.

I'm pretty sure as long as you attempting to pay something they cannot turn you over to collections. Hospitals, I think are not supposed to make profits. I had a son that was 3 months premature. I paid 5 bucks a month to pay off what the insurance didn't cover and I was never turn over.

My husband has thousands of dollars in medical bills. We also get hassled for all of it at one time. My uncle is a DA and we asked him what we should do and he said that there is a law in Oklahoma that as long as you send them something every month, whether it be $1 or $100, they cannot send you to collections. Now, those doctors and hospitals aren't going to tell you that because they want their money. I don't know where you can check into this, but we haven't gone to collections for anything. We still owe hundreds of dollars to a hospital for a visit 2 years ago. We pay what we can each month and they can't touch us.

first off, you say you are sending several people $20.00 a month? have you talked the business office at your hospital to have all off your bills consolidated into one account? that is what i did b/c i was receiving bills from each doctor my baby or myself say, the lab, the nursery, ect. then just pay them what you can afford each month. it is my understanding that as long as you make an earnest attempt to pay your medical bills that they have to accept it and they can not send it to collections.

I'm pretty sure as long as your attempting to make some sort of payment they cannot turn you over to collection. I had a similar thing with my credit card company 10 years ago. I sent them $100 every month but they wanted more. This was back when I was young and stupid (using credit cards uncontrollably)! Just keep making the payment and maybe send a little more from time to time if its ever available.

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