My ER bill was sent to collections, but I have already paid it
September 11, 2018 9:21 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with a bill from a collection agency for money I have already paid to the hospital?

I went to the ER (Kaiser).
Two weeks later I moved.
I had mail forwarding in place starting a few days before I moved just to be sure.
A few days after moving I went on vacation for three weeks, during which I had my mail held.
A week into my vacation I also changed my address with kaiser over the phone.
I came home and got a bill from kaiser for the ER visit (I now see that a portion of the amount said past due, but while plowing through my 3 weeks of mail unfortunately I did not. I also think a bill must have been lost somehow because I don't have a first bill, only one that says past due).
I mailed Kaiser a check immediately.
They cashed it.
Now exactly 2 months after going to the ER I just received a bill from a collection agency for the money I have already paid to Kaiser.
(Holy shit, that was fast. They couldn't call or something before sending it to collections?)

I am going to call Kaiser tomorrow when their billing department opens, but is there anything else I should be doing? Is there a way to get this fixed so it does not impact my credit? Am I supposed to pay the collections agency immediately or dispute it somehow?

Jesus christ I am so happy this happened after my mortgage went through. I have heard many other reports of hospitals sending things to collections at the drop of a hat but this still caught me completely off guard. Thanks in advance for any advice!
posted by insoluble uncertainty to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you paid the bill by check and it cleared, perfect. Look at your bank info online and do a screen grab of your check that they deposited. Get both sides, including the back image with their deposit stamp. If you don’t have online banking, go in person to request the check images.

When you call Kaiser’s billing office, ask them for an email address so you can email them the cleared check images. When this happened to me, I also sent them a hard copy letter in the regular mail with a copy of the images enclosed.

If they can’t help you because your account went to collections, find out this collection company’s info and email them the cleared check images.

In my case the collections people kept calling and sending me dunning letters even after I gave them proof that they had cashed my check, and confirmed this over the phone. I continued to send them letters with the check images, and they finally stopped harassing me.

I’m not sure if this will impact your credit. Best of luck, you’ll be fine!
posted by cartoonella at 9:46 PM on September 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

More info: when rereading the letter I received I noticed that it says "Please be advised that the current creditor listed above and the original creditor are the same creditor." Maybe this means this is basically still a letter from Kaiser, and the debt has not been sold off? The letterhead is for "USCB America."

The letter also says that that I must resolve it within 40 days of the date of the letter (which is a week ago, even though it came in the mail today) in order to avoid having it show up on my credit report. If I dispute it via certified mail by sending the bill & cleared check images, am I eating into that time?
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 12:03 AM on September 12, 2018

Write the collection agency, even if it's still Kaiser, and demand written proof of the debt. You're entitled to see it. Along with that, send copies of your evidence of having paid the debt: cancelled check, receipt, whatever you have.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:03 AM on September 12, 2018

When you talk with Kaiser ask them if it's worth calling the collections agency too and if they communicate with each other. Some hospitals actually work together and communicate back and forth with collections agencies, such that it's not always a matter of just washing their hands of the debts and passing them on.
posted by trig at 2:21 AM on September 12, 2018

Do not pay the collection agency, whoever they are! Doing so will not remove anything from your credit report, it'll just change the status and make it basically impossible to get removed until it eventually ages off. If the hospital can't get it taken care of for you, seeing as they in fact have been paid, then you should be disputing it in writing with the collection agency. You do it in writing so they can't bully you over the phone; if they do call, tell them you want to communicate only in writing. Even if you think you can handle yourself on the phone, pushing it to mail is your right and buys research time at every step.
posted by teremala at 5:08 AM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maybe this means this is basically still a letter from Kaiser, and the debt has not been sold off?

I think folks above have outlined pretty well what you should be doing, but I figured it was worth answering this secondary question - yes, that is definitely a thing that happens, they transfer it to a collections department that is still part of the company or owned by the company, though it may use different letterhead. Makes it scarier/more likely to get paid, and they may still collect in full (selling it to a debt collector means they get some small but guaranteed amount, never anywhere near the full amount owed).
posted by solotoro at 6:10 AM on September 12, 2018

What solotoro said just happened to me with another hospital. They definitely succeeded in scaring me into paying a bill that had slipped through the cracks!
posted by sacrifix at 6:31 AM on September 12, 2018

Am I supposed to pay the collections agency immediately or dispute it somehow?
Do not pay them. Verify that Kaiser shows the payment on your account. If not, ask them where to send the copy of the cancelled check so they can find it. If they do have the payment, tell them to notify the department or agency that sent you the letter. Either way, ask them to remove the account from the collections department or call it back from the agency since you are disputing the outstanding amount. They probably can't, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
posted by soelo at 8:26 AM on September 12, 2018

I wonder if you could post the letter (redacted)? My advice would differ a bit based on reading it.

Don't pay them again, though.
posted by praemunire at 1:57 PM on September 12, 2018

Thanks so much for the advice everyone. I called Kaiser and they said they would take care of it since they can see it has been paid (meaning the debt has not actually been sold off, they have just outsourced collections). I only like 80% believe that they will actually fix it though so I am going to also ask them to verify the debt using the "I do not owe this debt" version of the form letter linked below just to be sure. I will also include my check images when I send the letter. This way I have proof that I have responded to the letter they sent in time instead of just the phone call.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 9:48 AM on September 13, 2018

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