October 21, 2018

Debt Collectors Lurking in Hospital Waiting Rooms?

debt collector harassmentA recent article in The New York Times caught my eye.

The tactics, like embedding debt collectors as employees in emergency rooms and demanding that patients pay before receiving treatment, were outlined in hundreds of company documents released by the attorney general. And they cast a spotlight on the increasingly desperate strategies among hospitals to recoup payments as their unpaid debts mount.

To patients, the debt collectors may look indistinguishable from hospital employees, may demand they pay outstanding bills and may discourage them from seeking emergency care at all, even using scripts like those in collection boiler rooms, according to the documents and employees interviewed by The New York Times.

In some cases, the company’s workers had access to health information while persuading patients to pay overdue bills, possibly in violation of federal privacy laws, the documents indicate.

Debt Collector is Faulted for Tough Tactics in Hospitals” (Jessica Silver-Greenberg, The New York Times, April 24, 2012.)

With so many creditors and collection agencies turning to hard-core tactics, in hopes of intimidating enough debtors into paying to justify their wages and contracts, it shouldn’t be surprising that hospitals are following suit.

Medical debt is a key contributor to consumer bankruptcy, anecdotal evidence suggests (as well as my personal experience representing clients, a good many of whom were barely holding on financially before a medical crisis hit). With the cost of health care continuing to increase, it’s only to be expected that the percentage of unpaid bills will go up along with it.

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