Medical debt harassment is a serious issue faced by many consumers. According to an online report, medical debt collection complaints from the second-largest number of complaints received by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB was formed in 2011 to safeguard consumer interests in the financial sector (banks, credit unions, debt collectors, etc. operating in the US), following the financial crisis in 2007-2008.
Online reports state that 63% of consumer complaints talk about getting harassed for claims on debt that was not owed by them at all, or was already discharged through payment or bankruptcy. Thus, this figure reveals harassment on unverified debt. 48% of all complaints are due to consistent or non-stop efforts to recover debt. Many of the remaining 37% of complaints spoke of harassing behavior, including aggression.
The above figures are results from research conducted upon 17,701 medical debt complaints filed with the CFPB.
What is Medical Debt?
Medical debt is what a consumer incurs for health care or hospitalization and medical needs. Unlike other debts, medical debt may accrue as a result of a long illness or hospital stay. However, despite the reasons behind medical debt accumulating, it is one of the causes for individuals to file for bankruptcy in the US.
Further, despite the circumstances under which this debt accrues, when it comes to collection, consumers are not free from the threat of harassment. As the figures above revealed, consumers face harassment for the collection of debt which they may not own at all or which may even be paid up or perhaps discharged through bankruptcy.
Medical Debt Harassment
Medical debt collection unfortunately is also treated much the same way as the collection of other kinds of debt. As per another survey from a CFPB study, more than 40 million Americans are contacted each year for debt related to medical spending.
For a healthcare provider or a hospital, collection is important. After all, that is revenue. However, for an individual who is sick or unwell and dealing with physical infirmity and mental trauma of unpaid bills, debt collection related harassment or aggression can prove to be disastrous.
Debt collection usually turns aggressive when the healthcare provider is unable to recover the debt and sells it to a collection agency. The collection agency will receive its revenue only after the debt is paid up by the borrower/consumer. As a result, their efforts towards collection are more aggressive and can often border on harassment.
Typically, a medical debt collector’s job is to convince consumers to pay up immediately. When this does not happen, collectors may resort to illegal or harassing behavior. According to CFPB, debt collection related harassment behavior includes:
- Making continuous calls for the purpose of debt collection.
- Posing as somebody else and not revealing their real identity.
- Communicating details of the debt to persons other than the consumer, including family members and neighbors, thus resulting in embarrassment to the consumer.
- Filing lawsuits for unverified debt, which is proving to be the largest complaint when it comes to medical debt collection harassment.
Debt collection is also regulated by the Fair Debt Practices Collection Act (FDCPA) . Apart from the outlines above, the FDCPA also makes it illegal for debt collectors to:
- Make calls between 9 pm and 8 am when it can be inconvenient to consumers.
- Contact consumers even after they have requested debt collectors to stop.
- Talk about their debt to people other than the consumer, even if they are relatives or friends.
What you can do about medical debt harassment?
The CFPB has recommendations for the state and federal policymakers, as the report illustrates. These include measures to restrict debt collectors’ aggression through their outlines. However, as a consumer, you can also take measures to protect yourself:
- Arm yourself with knowledge; understand more about the debt once you get a call or information. Make sure the debt is indeed owed.
- Ask the debt collector to stop contacting you. Keep copies of written communication as proof.
- Check out options available to you to curb the harassment.
- Contact legal professionals or someone who knows the laws that helps consumers. Someone conversant with FDCPA directives and CFPB can help you gain freedom from harassment faster.
Legal Rights Advocates, PLLC is a law firm that focuses on helping clients who are facing harassment related to medical debts. Our team of attorneys, over the years, has helped countless clients get protections from debt collection practices that are deemed as unlawful and illegal.
If you are interested in learning more about how to safeguard yourself better from debt harassment, call us at (855) 254-7841 for immediate assistance.