This Debt Collector Had Better Hope HE Has Insurance

, , , , , | Healthy | March 29, 2020

(I’m a broke college student supporting myself with student loans, whatever hours I can get at my work-study job, and the small amount of money my parents can spare. Luckily, I’m still on my parents’ insurance. When I get into a bad bike accident and have to get stitches and x-rays at the hospital, their insurance covers the bill. It’s been a couple of months since then when I answer a call from a number I don’t recognize.)

Caller: “Am I speaking to [My Name]?”

Me: “This is her.”

Caller: “My name is [Caller], and I’m calling on behalf of [Debt Collection Agency] about an unpaid medical bill.”

Me: “What? I didn’t think I had any unpaid bills.”

Caller: “The bill is [amount] for an ambulance ride on [date of the bike accident].”

Me: “But my insurance covered that!”

Caller: “Sometimes insurance doesn’t cover certain services, like ambulances, if they are seen as unnecessary.”

(The ambulance was definitely necessary since there was a suspicion at the time that I’d seriously injured my neck and I was bleeding profusely from my head.)

Caller: “The billing department attempted to contact you multiple times, but you’ve consistently ignored them. Now the bill has been sent to us, and it will negatively affect your credit. However, if you pay it right now, we can try to remove it from your credit report. How will you be paying today, [Card #1] or [Card #2]?”

Me: “Um, I won’t be paying today. I need to contact my insurance company to see what’s going on. This should have been covered, and I’ve never heard of it before today.”

Caller: “If you don’t pay today, your credit will be negatively affected. You will never be able to get a loan, a mortgage, or a credit card.”

Me: “I need to talk to my insurance company before I do anything.”

(He keeps trying to convince me, so I eventually just hang up. I contact my insurance company and find that no claim was ever submitted for the ambulance trip and that they would have covered it if it was. Then, I call the hospital billing department to figure this out. It takes a very long time to reach the right person, but I finally find out what happened.

In an amazing display of incompetence, someone had billed it to the wrong insurance company in the wrong state using the wrong contact details. Obviously, that claim was denied, so they sent the bill to whatever address they’d written on the claim. With this level of screwing up, I’m guessing they mixed up my file with someone else’s.

Luckily, the person I talk to is more helpful, and she gets all the information she needs to submit the claim to my real insurance. She also promises to take the whole incident off my credit report once everything’s done. However, it will take several weeks at the very least for the claim to go through. In the meantime, I get another call several days later from the same bill collector.)

Caller: *after making sure he’s speaking to me* “Our records indicate that you still haven’t paid your bill. What payment method–”

Me: *cutting him off before he can get too far into this* “I’ve contacted my insurance and the hospital’s billing department and gotten the whole thing sorted out. There was a billing mistake. Many, in fact. But the claim has been properly submitted to my insurance now. It just takes a while to go through.”

Caller: “Well, you still haven’t paid. It’s on your credit report. I can’t take it off at this point since you’ve refused to pay it once already, but paying today will make sure your credit doesn’t get even worse. How will you be paying today, [Card #1] or [Card #2]?”

Me: “As I said, my insurance is paying it. We just have to wait for the claim to go through.”

Caller: “But your credit–”

Me: “The billing department said they’d take it off my credit report completely, as they’re the ones who made the mistake.”

Caller: “I’m looking at your credit report right now, and it’s not looking good.”

Me: “The claim was only submitted a few days ago. It hasn’t gone through yet.”

Caller: “If you pay in full right now, this will go away immediately. No need to wait for the claim to go through.”

Me: “Hold on. You want me to pay for something that I never needed to pay for in the first place, just to speed things up? That’s ridiculous! And even if I was going to pay, it’s not like I have that kind of money just lying around.”

Caller: “Surely you have some jewelry or electronics you could sell. I can give you the address of a pawn shop nearby.”

Me: “What? No! I didn’t mean I intended to pay you. My insurance is paying it directly to the hospital. We all just have to be patient.”

(This went back and forth for a while. It became clear that he was working on commission and wouldn’t get any money if the bill was paid through the insurance company. Eventually, I just had to hang up on him again, since it was obvious he was not giving up. He continued to call me multiple times a day for weeks, sometimes during class. Finally, the claim went through, and the debt collector stopped calling.)

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