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My Wife Had Surgery and the Bills Piled Up

Question: My wife had surgery and the bills piled up. Now they have been turned over to a collections company. I have talked to the collection company and told them I can pay $100.00 per month but they tell me that they will be the one to determine how much I will pay monthly. Can they do this?

Answer: Unfortunately a creditor or debt collector is generally not under any obligation to negotiate a settlement. The amount of payments if any is up to the agreement of the parties.

Hospital (not physician) bills are different. There is a statutory requirement that hospitals attempt to negotiate reasonable payment plans before filing suit.

Also, hospital and  medical bills are very difficult to collect. They are often filled with errors and overcharges. Send a letter disputing the debt, requesting a detailed itemization of the bills, and requesting a copy of the medical records, with a copy to each provider. Go through the bills and compare them to the records and see if there are any discrepancies. Chances are there will be some, along with charges for items or services not furnished and outlandish items (e.g., $100 for an aspirin). The provider or collector has to prove that the bills are accurate, the services are medically necessary, and the reasonable value of the services. The collector may become more reasonable when it sees you will not just accept the charges at face value.

Also, check and see if you qualify for charity care/ writeoffs. Illinois hospitals are required to provide same in exchange for their tax exemptions.