Protecting and Enforcing Your Rights
When you or a loved one require medical care, the last thing you should have to worry about is how any consequent debt might impact your credit score and livelihood. Unfortunately, even a brief unexpected visit to an emergency room or hospital can result in an exorbitant level of debt. Unpaid debts will eventually be sent to collections and can lead to wage garnishments and liens.
Medical debt is treated differently than other types of debt in the state of Utah. Creditors will nevertheless often resort to many invasive tactics when pursuing repayment, some of which may be unlawful. Our Salt Lake City medical debt lawyer at Ayres Law Firm has over 20 years of legal experience that can help you exercise and enforce your rights in these difficult situations. If you have been the victim of unscrupulous medical debt collection practices, we can help you explore all of your legal options.
I have worked with Tyler and I can say with confidence that he is meticulous, creative, and listens. I would hire him in a heartbeat.S.M.
Medical bills can be frightening, stressful, and all too often, confusing. If you have health insurance, it may not be clear what you will be expected to pay and what your policy will cover. Worse still, many insurance carriers will drag their feet in determining their obligation to pay a claim. Consumers will sometimes receive “surprise” bills when their insurance company refuses to honor your policy’s terms or only agrees to pay for a relatively small portion of the bill, leaving you on the hook for thousands of dollars or more in medical debt.
Insurance companies have 45 days to settle a claim involving medical debt in Utah. Medical providers can begin to take action to pursue the repayment of the debt after this window expires.
The reality is that, even in the best of scenarios, it can take many months for an insurance carrier to process and payout a claim. Fortunately, several laws exist to protect patients struggling to navigate who is responsible for paying their debt.
Medical providers cannot send your unpaid debts to collections without first complying with Utah’s Healthcare Debt Collections Amendment. This state statute requires that the medical provider give you formal, written notice that your debt has yet to be settled and that it will be submitted to collections if it is not addressed by a set date.
Under Utah law, a notice of unpaid medical debt must include:
- The amount that you owe
- The date the debt must be paid
- A disclosure that the medical provider may send the debt to collections and/or report the debt to a credit bureau
- A disclosure that these actions will damage your credit score
Debt involving Medicare requires at least 60 days of notice before it can be sent to collections. All other cases require at least 45 days of notice. The notice must be sent by certified mail (with return receipt requested), priority mail, or text message if the patient has authorized mobile communications.
This means that, at the bare minimum, you will have 90 days before your medical debt reaches a collection agency. These agencies will employ numerous strategies to recoup the debt, some of which may be abusive and unlawful.
Collection agents may threaten to report your debt to the credit bureaus. While they have the right to do so, note that the three major bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and Transunion – all must wait at least 180 days before adding medical debt to your credit report. This gives you time to resolve any ongoing insurance coverage disputes or arrive at some other compromise with your medical provider or the collection agency.
Some medical providers will fail to give the required notice before passing medical debt to collections, and many collection agents will violate the law by engaging in invasive and abusive practices. If medical debt has abruptly appeared on your credit report and you were never appropriately notified, we can help get the debt removed from your report and hold your provider accountable.
Medical bills are often astronomically high in the United States. You may not have the means to pay if you lack sufficient insurance coverage or require care not covered by your policy. Even when you know you cannot pay, medical providers and collection agencies are still required to provide formal notice of the debt and comply with all other state and federal regulations.
If the debt goes unpaid for many months, collection agents may get more aggressive in attempting to recover the debt and could even decide to sue you. In Utah, collection agencies can potentially secure wage garnishments, liens, and even seizures of property as a result of a successful lawsuit.
Medical debt has a statute of limitations of 6 years in the state of Utah. Creditors and collection agencies cannot sue you once this statute of limitations has passed.
If you know you will likely never be able to pay the entirety of a medical debt, do not make any payments or agree to a repayment plan. Any type of payment resets the statute of limitations, leaving you on the hook for another 6 years.
Creditors and collection agencies also cannot misrepresent their ability to sue you. You have the right to ask creditors if your medical debt is within the statute of limitations: They are required by law to truthfully answer.
Our Salt Lake City medical debt lawyer at Ayres Law Firm can fight collection agencies that resort to abusive practices or misrepresent their right to pursue legal action. Our team understands many of the unsavory tricks that creditors leverage to exploit those with medical debt and is committed to protecting your rights.
If your medical debt was reported to credit bureaus without proper notice or you are receiving threats from creditors, do not hesitate to call (801) 851-1906 or contact us online to discuss your situation with our team.
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