Consumer Reports: Getting rid of medical bills you don’t really owe

Consumer Reports says that before you’re forced to pay, there are some ways to fight back.
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 5:36 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Getting contacted by a debt collector for a medical bill you don’t owe can be stressful. In fact, more than 40 million people have unpaid medical bills sent to collections, many of which are because of a billing error. However, Consumer Reports says that before you’re forced to pay, there are some ways to fight back.

Earlier this summer, Lauren MacNeill got a curious bill from a collection agency saying she owed $71 to an urgent care center she had never visited. “I believe that they just made a mistake. I had never been to that urgent care,” Lauren said.

If a debt collector contacts you for a medical bill you believe is wrong, never pay it immediately. Instead, Consumer Reports says to take these steps. Gather as much info as possible, 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. Lisa Gill is with Consumer Reports and says, “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 five days of your request. If the verification letter shows an error, file a dispute in writing by 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,” Lisa said.

Lauren says it’s just the principle of the matter that the issue is resolved. “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.”