6 On Your Side: Consumer Confidence, How to Fight Back Against Medical Debt

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(ABC 6 NEWS) – Having Medical Debt is never easy, it can add up fast. So what are some ways you can manage it to make sure your bills are paid and accurate?

Earlier this summer Lauren MacNeill got a curious bill from a collection agency saying she owed 71-dollars to an urgent care center she never visited.

“I believe that they just made a mistake. I had never been to that urgent care,” MacNeill said.

Lauren reached out to Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter Lisa Gill for help.

“Lauren’s case is a textbook example of why you should almost always push pause when contacted by a debt collector for a medical bill,” Lisa Gill, Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter said.

“Lisa was very helpful. We would call some of the places together and she would help me kind of navigate the process,” MacNeill said.

If you’re contacted by a debt collector for a medical bill you believe to be wrong, never pay it right away. Instead, CR says to take these steps.

Gather as much info as you can, including the name of the collection agency, the person you’re speaking with, their phone number, address, email, and as much information about the bill as possible.

There are a lot of scams out there – so doing this can deter any phony debt collector.

Next, ask the debt collector to send verification of the debt. You can expect to receive information on the debt in the mail within about five days after your request.

If the verification letter shows an error, file a dispute in writing by either email or certified letter within 30 days or else the collection agency will assume the debt is valid.

“We ended up having Lauren send a certified letter documenting the alleged errors and stating that she had no obligation to pay the bill. She still hasn’t heard back, so she’s not obligated to pay any of the debt,” Gill said.

“As I told my son this whole story, and he said, ‘all of this for just $71?’And I said, ‘yes,’ but you can imagine if it was for thousands of dollars,” MacNeill said.