Do you have outstanding medical debt and need some help figuring out what to do?
Our NBC 5 Responds team has culled together the following list of resources that may be able to help.
Additionally, NBC 5 will be hosting two phone banks Friday where people with outstanding medical debt can call for assistance about dealing with debt collectors and also get information on local organizations that may be able to offer assistance.
Call 817-654-6303 with your questions Friday morning from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and Friday afternoon from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
How is medical debt purchased?
- Medical debt is purchased when providers like hospitals and doctors cannot collect payment; they sell the debt to collection agencies.
- Medical debt can be sold multiple times, but instead of collecting it NBC partnered with RIP Medical Debt to erase it for 2,000 North Texans.
Why can’t you pay for someone's specific debt?
- NBC partnered up with a charity called RIP Medical Debt that will buy medical debt. The charity can’t specifically pick out families because it’s sold in one big chunk. RIP Medical Debt screens medical debt portfolios to pinpoint those bundles most in need of relief.
Why can’t you help me specifically?
- NBC doesn’t pick the families. NBC made a donation to RIP Medical Debt to pay off debt for a group of North Texans. This was a randomized group and we were not able to pick specific families or amounts of debt. We don’t even know the names of the individuals who will receive the letter from RIP Medical Debt. That’s a process that the organization takes care of.
Can I buy a specific family’s medical debt?
- Unfortunately, you cannot. But any donation that is made is guaranteed to go to a North Texas family needing financial assistance with their medical debt.
Does my medical debt expire?
- Unfortunately, medical debt never leaves you alone, unless you file for bankruptcy protection. After seven years it does fall off of your credit report if your provider hasn’t sued you in court and obtained a judgment.
Am I ever “off the hook” for medical debt if I don’t pay?
- You are only “off the hook” when you file for bankruptcy protection. Bankruptcy protection says you’re no longer obligated to pay medical debt you owed prior to the filing date. There are limitations to how long after a debt is created, that a debt collector can collect your debt. Debt typically falls off of credit reports after about 7 years.
I have medical debt. If I die, will my children have my debt?
- No. Medical debt will not go to your children unless they signed paperwork as a co-signer or guarantor. If the estate has assets, it will need to pay the judgments owed by the estate before the children can receive their inheritance.
Can I buy medical debt myself? / Can I donate to the cause?
- While you can’t pick a specific debt to pay for, you can donate to RIP Medical Debt. We have a link on our website at nbcdfw.com/MedicalDebt. Every dollar that you donate, will wipe out $100 of someone’s medical debt.
Why can’t the hospital let me pay my bill for less?
- It’s a tricky situation, but if all hospitals let their patients pay their bill for such a reduced cost everybody would wait to pay their bills until their bill is reduced.
I have a bill and can’t pay for it. What do I do?
- We have resources and local organizations that can help you figure out a financial plan.
What do I do when a debt collector calls?
- Ask them to verify the debt in writing. They should be able to come back to you within 30 days and verify the location of the debt they are claiming to have.
Does medical debt impact me differently than typical debt?
- Medical debt is different than typical debt because there are multiple billing entities that are involved in the charging such as insurance companies, doctors, labs, emergency services, radiologists, etc. When people seek medical help, they don’t always know what services they are being charged by.
- Verify the debt in writing and ask for the validation notice.
- Review a credit report for accuracy.
- Free service www.annualcreditreport.com
- Start recording collector phone calls (legal in Texas).
- Make a note when collectors call you and how many times they call you.
- Do assert your contact preferences. Collection agencies can communicate with you through mail.
- Get the collector’s name and address to write them a letter if you are being harassed by phone.
- Make copies of any documentation you send to a collector.
- Report the debt collection to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if you feel they are violating their rights. There is a consumer complaint database. The website is consumerfinance.gov
- Go to TexasLawHelp.org to find out how to help yourself financially.
- Know Texas’ debt and protection laws to avoid garnishments.
- Pay the bills that come in on a regular basis.
- Don’t ignore lawsuits from debt collectors.
- Don’t be harassed by callers. Calls can’t come before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Don’t engage an agreement over the telephone with somebody you don’t know.
- Don’t provide payment over the phone
- In Charge Debt Solutions - call 800-565-8953. InCharge offers free nonprofit credit counseling, debt management and debt consolidation services to residents of Texas.
- Health Well Foundation - healthwellfoundation.org. Helps assists patients in covering copayments, health care premiums and some deductibles.