Sweet idea! I've never used reddit...before now.
That's not a bad idea, though I may then edit my blog post and remove the part about PACs and legislators, heh. Perhaps my Rep will lend a serious ear, perhaps not, but the only way I'll know is if I try.
If I do this, it will have to be tomorrow because right now I need to shower and head to work. But it's still a time suck that isn't worth the amount of money. But I guess I'm going down the road of holding somebody responsible, so I might as well try to make the call.
2007-07-16 08:23 pm (UTC)
Advice from someone who's been where you now.
Some pieces of advice from someone who's been through debt collection via an unpaid medical bill.
1) Debt collectors are not honest. At all. Be sure to google the "Fair Debt Collection Act" or "Fair Debt Collection Practices". There are tactics Debt Collectors are not supposed to use at all (such as browbeating or calling you a lowlife, etc, threatening to maliciously total your credit, etc) that are often used. Be sure you know what they are, because if they stoop to that level, you can catch and report them. Know what to do.
2) Again, do not trust anything they say over the phone. Demand written documentation for everything. Insist on written letters/agreements. Have them fax you things to be expedient.
3) Always get names. Find out their name and employee number. Find out who their supervisor is. Always. In fact, demand such information before talking with them -- it helps you retain control of the situation.
4) Keep escalating the problem to a supervisor. Refuse to be talked over. If someone starts talking over you, tell them that you will not tolerate that treatment from a debt collector, and you wish to speak with their supervisor. Repeat.
5) Don't cave. I've found that hospitals work with a lot of debt collectors. Often times, the Hospital gives them a time limit to collect the debt, after which it will be sent back to the hospital. If you can catch the bill while its at the hospital, and make a payment on it, it will re-activate the account -- and the account will likely not have any interest. (Hospitals don't charge interest -- the collection agencies do.) So wait them out. Call the hospital every 30 days and see if the bill has gone back to their internal collections department yet. Work out a payment plan with them -- they will be far more willing to work with you, and will be reasonable.
6) Don't expect any kind of public shaming or humiliation to affect debt collectors. They don't care. They're soulless. They want a reputation as rough. They want a reputation as uncaring. They're out to get your money. That's it. The people who take those jobs hate you -- you're just a deadbeat with a social security number that they're here to collect from.
7) Be sure they have up to date information regarding your address. That way if they take it to a judgment hearing (which stays on your credit history until its paid off -- and pretty much forbids people from giving you credit at anything less than the state maximum interest rate) you can have your day in court. A judge will likely rule that you have to pay your debt, but not the interest. It also probably won't come to that, because as I mentioned -- if they can't collect in 30-90 days, the hospital will take it back and find someone else who can.
You're pretty much screwed and going to have to pay, but you might be able to beat the interest and save your credit. Good luck.
2007-07-16 08:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Advice from someone who's been where you now.
Thank you for all your advice. Much of it I have been following, though after I talked to Ruby's supervisor (whose name I didn't post only because I can't find the notebook at this moment), Lauren Somethingorother, would not refer me to anyone higher up, stating that even if she did, I would be told all the same statements.
Also, they haven't threatened me in the ways you mention, though to me it is absolutely a threat when they keep parroting, "as soon as you pay us, we will take this off your credit," which clearly underscores, "you will pay us this interest, or your credit and therefore well-being suffers!"
2007-07-16 09:24 pm (UTC)
My quick take - Apathy
While I more or less agree that the collection agencies are soulless and uncaring, I believe it's more a matter of apathy (at all levels) than lack of ethics that comes into play here. If you look at the economics of the collection agency, it's not their job and it's not worthwhile for them to investigate the merits of any given claim. They don't know if it's a valid claim, and they don't want to know - they just have to assume it is. Given the percentage of deadbeats they probably have to deal with, it makes sense that they're entirely script-driven.
I hope you can get some positive resolution out of this, but you will be going up against the apathy of the collection agency, the apathy of the people at the hospital (they'd have to figure out how to go around the standard procedures), and likely the apathy of the tv and newspapers.
Good luck. If you can work directly with the hospital like anonymous suggested above, that's probably your best bet for a satisfactory resolution, but I don't know what happens to your credit in that case.
Unfortunately, the Grossmont ER medical group I contacted seemed to have no interest in my case at all. The probably "sold it" for some number of cents on the dollar, and washed their hands of it.
You're probably right that apathy is a large part of it, and I'm sure combative deadbeats are as well. But I was, at the outset, very polite and willing to settle for the original cost. Frankly, I'm shocked they think dealing with me for longer is worth their time.
OoooooOOoooo. The Anti-Christ!
The Scripps hospitals work with CMRE, too. I am in the process of filing an identity theft police report (a whole nother story, and something I should have done long ago), so as far as I know I should be able to contact the credit companies directly to resolve the marks on my credit as a result of the theft, but I am dreading talking to anyone at CMRE again.
2007-07-16 11:55 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear about it. I hope you get your credit crap resolved nicely and quickly. I've been through identity theft twice (one is ongoing), and it's not happy.
though to me it is absolutely a threat when they keep parroting, "as soon as you pay us, we will take this off your credit....
that isn't a threat, it's a carrot, and quite possibly a lie.
but that isn't what i wrote to say. once i handled a case like this (at least as similar as money-owing that i didn't owe, which for me was a cable box, and for you is interest) by taking my old student ID (expired, as i freely admitted, but with no expiration date) to legal counsel at Tulane. The counselor / lawyer there was more than happy to write some fat legalese which demonstrated, at least, that i was serious... without introducing any new information whatsoever to the dispute.
it might be as easy as demonstrating that you have representation. don't i know a lawyer?
Here is what you do.
First, write a letter stating the exact facts of what happened. Begin and end with a statement that you are enclosing check # for $, the amount of the new bill that is being presented to you (but NOT the interest--since you can't possibly owe interest). Use language that is not at all charged, and write it as though you are the most reasonable human being to walk the earth; pretend you are trying to explain what happened to a very stupid middle school student, using the full name of the hospital and the billing company at all times. Write that OF COURSE you are more than happy to pay any charges you incurred as a result of your medical care, as demonstrated by the fact that you promptly paid all of the bills you received. Etc. etc. Include the names of every person you talked to and when (with dates, if possible), and how they just couldn't help you to resolve this like the very reasonable person you are. Have a friend check it over for you before you finalize it. You want it to be clear and succinct. You're not at all upset, angry, etc. No no. You are confused as to why the nice hospital didn't just ask you to pay way back when, because of course you would have done so, and since they are presenting the bill to you for the very first time you are just so darn confused as to how you could possibly legally owe interest--after all, a bill can't be overdue before you even know it exists, can it? And didn't you get bills right after the treatment and pay them? So isn't it a big confusing surprise that there is now a new bill?
If you have positive facts like you're at the same address and phone number you were at when you got the other bills (showing you were just ready and waiting for those bills to arrive and be promptly paid), include that too.
Optional: Feel free to enclose any proof you have that shows how you promptly paid the original bill(s) you received.
Send the letter to the billing group with a check for payment for ONLY the bill part (NOT the interest).
Mandatory: you MUST cc (1) the hospital's billing group, (2) the Better Business Bureau (if the billing group is in a location that differs from the hospital, make sure you send it to both relevant BBB offices), and (3) the state attorney general's consumer protection division. You MUST print on the bottom of the letter that you cc'd these organizations.
Never admit that it is even remotely possible that you owe them the interest (unless, of course, you discover this is your mistake--in which case you recant immediately and cough up the dough like an ethical human being).
Never concede anything over the phone. If the hospital o or billing group calls you, be as sweet as you can, smile a lot, and use lots of phrases like "I'm confused. So what you are telling me is that you made a mistake? Okay. So you're asking me to pay for your mistake? I'm confused." Ask them to send you everything in writing. If you do get a call, ask for the caller's full name and a number where you can reach them. If possible, ask for their job title without making it obvious that's what you are doing. ("Oh, so you work for the hospital, right? Are you a secretary there? No? Oh, well then what is your job, exactly? What do you call that?")
I will echo a couple of points that have already been raised. . . First, do not just send them full payment without getting something in writing stating that the charge will be removed from your credit report. I had a similar situation several years ago with Sprint. I was checking my credit report and found a collection I didn't recognize. I called the collection agency and they told me it was a final bill for long distance that I had in college. I had never received any bill and thought I had paid everything years ago, so I took their word for it and offered to pay in full if they would just remove the offending collection from my credit report. The rep agreed to do so and I paid them. In 60 days I checked my credit again only to find that they had only updated the account as "Paid" which reset the clock for it to roll off of my credit report. Not only did paying not get it removed, but it actually lowered my credit for 3 years because the collection was marked on the report from 3 years prior. Long story short, get the removal in writing, and find out who's written and signed it. You want to verify that they are authorized to make such an agreement and won't wiggle out of it.
Second, writing the letter and cc'ing the parties above is worth your time. The impact on your credit rating will be there for 7 years. You will pay so much more than your 10% hourly income rate or anything in extra finance charges, points, capital requirements, etc when you buy a house.
The bottom line:
1. Collection agencies are scum, and will lie to you to get their money. Get everything from them in writing.
2. Do what it takes to get it removed from your credit report. A 20 point difference in your credit score can cost you 100 basis points or more on a mortgage. It's worth your time to fix it now.
2007-09-24 11:00 pm (UTC)
I have a similar situation with CMRE.
2007-10-03 10:35 pm (UTC)
My encounter with CMRE
My father passed away unexpectidly in mid-August of 2007. As his daughter I am doing my best to deal with his unfinished business. I stopped by his ex-girlfriend's house after he died, to pick up mail she was holding for him. There was a piece of mail addressed to both my father and myself. Confused as to what it could be I opened it and found a CMRE credit collection bill in the amount of $1614.98! On the statement it says the principal balance due at the time CMRE was brought in was $987.43. Add interest in the amount of $627.55 and you come up with a total of $1614.98! Horrified that I am responsible for some unknown bill, I called CMRE to find out exaclty what the bill was about. After having to call back twice because I kept getting forwarded to "full mailboxes", I demanded to speak to A PERSON and not a mailbox. The woman I talked to told me that in October of 2003, I was a patient in the ER at TriCity Hospital. The bill from that visit was never paid and now I owe $1614.98. I explained to her that I was NEVER a vistior or patient in the ER like they claim and I want them to send me a detailed copy of this visit. She told me that her company and TriCity do not work off "the memory" of people and that even though they have been sending notices to THE WRONG ADDRESS I am responsible for 100% of the bill. When asked if I would be able to negotiate the bill back down to the principle balance she said no, not if I have to make installments of payments. I said to her,
Doesn't the hospital have to PROVE that they treated me in 2003?, and she said the fact that they have my DOB is proof that they treated me! So, totally flabergasted at the whole thing, I called TriCity Medical Center. I spoke with a young lady in the accounts department and she gave me the medical number of the bill in question. Somehow, by the Grace of God, I had actuely found this medical bill in my dad's files and kept it! The bill in question was from Radiology, not the ER of TriCity Medical Center, in October of 2003. The original bill was sent to THE WRONG ADDRESS in October of 2004, in the amount of--are you ready...$142.43!!! When TriCity did not get a response by December they sent it directly to CMRE and wiped their hands of it! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Not only was this girl shocked to hear that the credit agency HER COMPANY EMPLOYS wants over $1600, but she also told me that I was unable to deal directly with her because the bill was too old to be in thier system. I demanded to know two things from her, 1) Why would TriCity wait only 2 months and be so hasty to turn this bill over to collections so soon? and 2) WHERE IN THE HELL DOES CMRE GET OFF CLAIMING THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT WAS $987.43 WHEN IT WAS REALLY ONLY $142.43!?!?!?!? Because, although the account could no longer be handled by her department, she was able to substanciate that the bill was originally only $142.43. So I asked her what I should do or who I should talk to about taking care of this screw up. I also explained that I would be more than happy to pay $142.43, it's just that I had NO IDEA that the bill from 2003 was never paid, and I don't understand why they were sending it to my father's old address, and not to me. All she was able to tell me is that the ONLY people I can deal with on this issue is CMRE Financial Services. I can tell all of you right now that I AM NOT PAYING THIS COLLECTION AGENCY $1614.98 FOR A $142.43 BILL!! I don;t know how this is all going to play out because I know how hard it is to dispute claims with these kinds of corporations. I also do not have the money to retain an attorney if need be, and in the meantime my credit is being royally screwed up at the ripe old age of 24! This is just one more thing I am now dreading to deal with after the death of my father. And by the way...EVERY SINGLE PERSON I have spoken to (including three major credit card companies) has cut me off in mid-sentence to offer condolences on the loss of my Father. NOT ONCE did I hear even an ounce of compassion in the voices of the women who answered the phone at CMRE or TriCity Medical Center. My story is yet another example of a major billing screw up on the part of a Hospital and the resulting consequences for the patients they sick CMRE upon.
I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your father, and your subsequent hassle with CMRE.
I can tell from the length and tone of your post that your buttons are all pushed at once, and I know that's the toughest. I hope you find a good resolution. Take a deep breath and move forward one step at a time. Perhaps legal counsel is in order -- particularly given the size of the bill in question.
2008-04-08 05:19 pm (UTC)
And I thought I was alone in this. I'm having exactly the same difficulty. We just received a letter from CMRE for a "uncollected bill" also from Grossmont E/R Medical Group. Likewise they couldn't get my bill straight. We paid and now we're being told we didn't. Just like you, we are also being charged interest. My question is: what do they do with illegals and uninsured? Come to find out, NO DOCTOR WITH GROSSMONT E/R MEDICAL GROUP is affiliated with an insurance company! Why? So they can charge the individual WITH insurance the full charges. There was no other ER doctor available at the time that my family member got treated. What were we to do? Leave Grossmont (after the long wait in the waiting room) and go to Scripps Mercy, or UCSD? Well the conclusion is I'm still trying to negotiate something that is morally wrong by this hospital and their docs. In the future, we will go to Mercy or UCSD, even if it is another 15 miles further away. Yet, if any of you have any info on how to fight this unfair practice, please let us know!
Unfortunately, I think practices like this continue because most people don't have the time to organize a fight against it.
If you hold a gun to 10,000 heads and ask for a hundred dollars each, you're not likely to face resistance.
I suspect the only way to fight such a million dollar scheme is the collective power of a class action lawsuit. Though, as somebody with a new business, I certainly don't have time to research the possibility. I hope that if anyone ever does, I am contacted through this post.
Best of luck with your situation.
2008-04-09 01:02 am (UTC)
I have had the same experience believe it or not. I went in for tetanus shot and treatment of staph infection on my foot a few years ago. Long story short, I received a bill in the mail and sent them a check. A month later another bill with a different amount which I so graciously decided to pay as well. A month later another bill with interest added to the previous two bills! What the hell is going on. So I called CMRE for the first time, and like you, I have never received any calls from them while they were sending me these outrageous bill amounts.
They requested an EOB (explanation of benefits) that my insurance covers. So I sent them this and other documents that they requested. Called them 2 weeks later and they said I continued to owe them. Their response, nothing. Stonewall. What is a person to do? CMRE is definitely unscrupulous and conniving business. They said that the bill was paid in full. Two years later, today in fact, I called them again and informed that this was still being reported as a delinquent account. They finally realized that indeed it had been paid in full two years prior. They had no regard of how this would affect my credit history. They are currently sending a letter to the credit reporting agencies to have this bogus account removed from my report. I am just lucky I haven't had mortgage or other loan.
2008-04-13 04:46 pm (UTC)
I was an associate attorney for a firm who handled a lady's personal injury lawsuit. I left that firm over 6 months ago. All of a sudden, I received a collection notice from CMRE for one of this lady's unpaid bills to La Jolla Radiology. This is absolutely ridiculous. I received this letter on a Saturday and faxed a letter of dispute immediately. I will follow up on Monday and see what these idiots say.
2008-05-22 03:44 pm (UTC)
I am having a similiar problem with CMRE. I was never seen at the doctors office in question and got a credit report that stated I owe them 65.00. I paid them 75.00(in case of further interest) just to clear my credit and figured I would resolve it later. That was about 6mos. ago. When I called to complain to them they started entering key derogatories on my credit even though the balance is now $0. And the worst part is they never sent me my $10 refund.
2008-06-05 04:48 pm (UTC)
I'm a little old to this post, but, my incident is recent
I just off the phone with CMRE. Went to the ER in January of 2007, paid my deductible as required by Kaiser of $100.00 to the hospital. Emergency Physicians Medical Group worked up a separate charge of $79.47 that I found out later Kaiser did not pay. I called CMRE. Rudest people on the planet. The gentleman (I use that term generously) was condescending, saying at least I don't have any collections you loser. Huh, I said your office is right down the street from mine, tough guy. Wanna talk it out? He wouldn't tell me who the bill was from or why I never received it. I called Kaiser, they pulled up the information and the operator, who was very kind and helpful, advised me this should've been paid by them and I can fax an appeal and they'll handle it. I also received the contact information for EMPG from her. I in turn called them and they advised they sent my bills to the wrong address, two blocks away from my home, all bills RTS (return to sender). They said they will contact CMRE and have it put on hold until Kaiser goes through the appeals process. Now, I call CMRE back and state that according to your letter you have to put this account on hold for 30 days as I have contacted regarding this issue and followed the appropriate protocol. The refused. Their letter verbatim, "Unless you notify this office within 30 days from receiving this notice, " I received it on 6/04/08 and I'm writing this on 6/05/08, "this office will assume this debt is valid." No such luck for me! They lied in their letter. I believe I have recourse. They also refused to identify the debtor which their letter also states they will do if contacted within 30 days for the receipt of this notice. I will get this resolved, I will contact my local representatives and I will get EMPG's account removed from CMRE. I'm local, affluent, and ready to take them down and I will. For all of you and myself. Take care and I'm fightin' them to the last.
2008-06-05 06:56 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm a little old to this post, but, my incident is recent
Wow, good for you! I wish I had had the time and resources for that battle, but I was going through a lot at the time. Good luck!