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Question: I just received a summons on some medical bills that I couldn’t pay. The original debt collector would not work with me whatsoever. I would like to resolve this without going to court. The summons says I must file a response with the court.

Answer: You probably cannot resolve this satisfactorily without going to court. You should strictly comply with the instructions on the summons and make all court appearances. If you can, hire an attorney.

Unless you contracted to pay a specific amount for an elective procedure, liability for medical debts is for the reasonable value of the services provided. This is remarkably difficult to prove. You should appear as directed on the summons, deny that the amount claimed is reasonable, ask for a trial, and if the amount is significant, ask for discovery of medical records and detailed bills. There are often items which are erroneous, not medically necessary, outrageously overpriced ($25 for an aspirin), and the like.

If the bill is from a hospital, Illinois statutes require that non-profit hospitals provide a certain amount of charity care (in exchange for their tax exemption) and that you be provided with notice of your right to apply for same. You are also entitled to a reasonable payment plan. If these things were not done, the hospital is not entitled to recover.

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