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Medical debt collection tactics lead to repercussions

When it comes to issues of debt, many Michigan residents find that their debt problems build up slowly over time. Medical debt, however, is often brought on by a sudden and unexpected injury or illness and is typically accumulated through no fault on the part of the debtor. Unfortunately, debt collectors do not approach medical bills much differently than other forms of debt.

A recent story has made headlines across the nation, as a hospital is receiving intense scrutiny for its aggressive, and some say illegal, debt collection practices. The hospital is part of a larger chain of non-profit medical centers and has been under scrutiny since this spring. The attorney general for the state in which the hospital operates issued a lengthy report on the hospital, Accretive Health and Fairview Health Services, accusing employees of those companies of improper debt collection practices.

Among the specific complaints are claims that employees demanded upfront payment from people seeking emergency treatment, as well as pressing bedridden patients for money to cover services. In addition, some patients felt that they would be denied medical treatment if that were unable to cover the full cost in advance or make good on outstanding medical bills. Should such accusations prove true, the hospital in question could lose their access to Medicare and Medicaid services.

The attorney general filed a lawsuit against Accretive Health in the matter, which was ultimately settled with a payout of up to $2.5 million and an agreement for the company to leave the state for up to six years. However, this case sheds light on the aggressive medical debt collection practices of only a few companies. The practice of using illegal or excessive debt collection tactics is widespread in Michigan, and it leads many consumers to feel overwhelmed by their financial standing. Anyone who is suffering to pay their monthly debt service should know that there is help available in the form of a personal bankruptcy filing. Such an action can help to discharge most, if not all, of an individual's medical debt and provide a fresh start.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Hospital Debt Collection Harsh Tactics Broke Laws, Report Says," Jeffrey Young, Sept. 30, 2012

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