Medical bills, Collection Agency, and my Credit Report -- HELP!!!

Discussion in 'Credit Talk' started by 1genie, Aug 16, 2008.

  1. 1genie

    1genie New Member

    Hello, I am new to the forum and I have a problem....

    First...on my credit report I have several collection accounts that have been paid. These were ALL medical accounts and I paid them all or settled with the collection agency. So my first question is, can they still be removed under HIPPA? IF so, how do I do this? Do I send a letter to the credit bureaus or to the collection agency? They are now about 3-4 years since I have paid or settled.

    Second...I have one last medical collection account that needs to be paid. I was contacted by the CA over a year ago and tried to work out a payment plan with them. I paid them $150 on a $1500.00 account. Now I have the rest of the money and want to pay them off. Can I pay this off and have the account removed under HIPPA even though I have already made a partial payment? Who should I contact about making the payment? the collection agency?

    Thanks for all your help!!
  2. jjgross

    jjgross Well-Known Member

    On the second collection.You can ask for paid for deletion,but don't send any money until you get a signed agreetment.Their pretty bad about agreeing then not doing it,so make sure you get it in writing before paying,
  3. Hedwig

    Hedwig Well-Known Member

    HIPPA has nothing to do with credit reporting. It has to do with releasing your specific medical information (such as your condition or treatment) to a third party.

    To report a medical collection on your credit report does not violate HIPPA.
  4. Jamesq97

    Jamesq97 Member

    paid medical collection on your credit report does violate HIPPA. do a search on google for whychat .

    whychat should help you in getting paid medical off your credit report.
  5. TeeVeeDude

    TeeVeeDude Well-Known Member

    The whychat methodology appears to work in many cases, even though the rationale is wrong.

    It is not illegal for a hospital to give information about your account to a third-party collection agency. The agency has a valid reason under HIPPA to have that information.

    It is not illegal for the collection agency to put the collection on your credit report.

    So why would it suddenly be illegal for it to be there after you have paid it? If it is correctly reporting as a paid collection, and it is correctly coded as a medical collection, there is no HIPAA violation. HIPAA doesn't even mention credit reports or collections.

    That said, a large number of people are reporting success in using whychat's methods to remove paid collections. It even worked on the one account that I tried it on. That doesn't make the legal theory valid -- I also threatened to sue a collection agency that was correctly reporting a non-medical account, and they removed it. Any judge would have laughed my lawsuit out of court, but it worked.

    I think the whychat method is basically a "litigious nutcase" approach for medical collections. It works, it just doesn't work for the reasons that whychat says it works.
  6. jjgross

    jjgross Well-Known Member

    The ftc,fcra,fdcra.Are always reviewing and adding stuff to it as soon as they catch on they'll change it.Just like they now ruled they can go back and add a bk to your cr if the cc forgot to add it to there reporting.which would mean that they would be able to put it back on your report,because they don't grandfather anyting in.So you get screwed every couple of years.
  7. Hedwig

    Hedwig Well-Known Member

    HIPPA, as TeeVeeDude correctly states, does not prevent reporting of collections, nor does it even mention collections.

    HIPPA deals with privacy information mostly. The doctor can tell the collection agency that you owe $150 for an office visit on December 12.

    What HIPPA does prohibit is the doctor telling the collector that on December 12, you came to the office complaining of chest pains, and that you were diagnosed with a heart attack.

    As TeeVeeDude says, if it works, try it. But there is no legal basis for it, and when the CAs start pushing back it won't be effective anymore.
  8. TeeVeeDude

    TeeVeeDude Well-Known Member

    I don't believe even that much is true.

    HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) allows medical providers to share individually identifiable health information with "business associates," and specifically mentions billing. A hospital or doctor's office would be allowed to share specific diagnosis codes, treatment codes, and date of service with a third-party billing company.

    One could argue that the original billing company has a "need to know" for that specific information, but a collection agency only needs to know the date of service and the unpaid balance. But then, that would throw a collection agency into a Catch-22 situation: they can't collect without providing detailed validation, but they can't validate without violating HIPAA. I believe that the collection agency is allowed to have this information based on the business associates provision.

    But we won't know for sure until someone litigates and we get a court to clear up the gray area.

    In the meantime, I had one stubborn medical collection on my report. I sent whychat's pre-HIPAA dispute letter to the CRA and the tradeline was immediately deleted. If it works, great! But if it doesn't work, don't be too surprised.
  9. Hedwig

    Hedwig Well-Known Member

    I agree--if it works, go for it. Just realize that the law isn't necessarily behind you, so if it doesn't work you may not have a lot of recourse.
  10. jlynn

    jlynn Well-Known Member

    Also, I don't believe HIPAA has a private right of action. I could be wrong.
  11. Hedwig

    Hedwig Well-Known Member

    I think you're right.
  12. flacorps

    flacorps Well-Known Member

    Keep in mind that many states also have medical privacy provisions with specific exemptions that allow specific information to be released for specific purposes.

    Some states (like Florida) omit the collections process entirely from those provisions, meaning that the provider is not permitted to release the information necessary to validate to the collector under any circumstances according to the statute. That is not to say that a court might not carve out an exception so that a wholesale forfeiture of the ability to use the CRAs as a collection tool does not occur. Ideally courts would decline to do so and thus leave the solution to the legislature, but judicial activism being what it is, it's more likely courts would side with the medical establishment and the collectors against the consumer.
  13. flacorps

    flacorps Well-Known Member

    The rationale for Whychat's method is correct.

    Say you have a collection on your report.

    Then you pay the medical provider directly and in so doing direct them not to share any further information with the collector.

    Then you ask the collector for validation.

    There is no further business purpose for the provider to share any information with the collector. But the collector must have the information in order to validate. And without validating the collector cannot continue to report, and cannot respond if you dispute with a credit reporting agency.

    Legally, the collection must come off your report.

    It is a Catch-22 for the provider and the collector, but the law is full of those.
  14. TeeVeeDude

    TeeVeeDude Well-Known Member

    And this is the crux of where we disagree. The provider has an ongoing business relationship with the collector. The collector is covered under the "business associates" provision of HIPAA. There's no way a court is going to rule that a provider violated HIPAA by telling their business associate that you paid your bill.
  15. Treasurer

    Treasurer New Member

    Let's take this piece by piece:
    >The provider (also known as Original Creditor) has an ongoing business relationship with the collector.
    The providers ongoing business relationship with the collection agency pertaining to the collection of other accounts is irrelevant. The Provider/Original Creditor may have engaged that collection agent only to collect your account. What I believe is most relevant is that the relationship between the provider and the collector (as pertains to your account) is terminated upon receipt of final payment, with the sole last acts being the mandated ones, including:
    • Recipient of the monies must inform the other party that the collections is over, triggering commission to Collector if recipient was Provider/OC, Payment Split to Provider/OC, if recipient was Collector.
    • Collector must close file (since there is nothing to collect, they cannot be actively collecting on it).
    [Note: I've read online (but not found it the supporting clause in HIPAA yet that a subsequent CRA investigation, which they would most likely send to the collector, would be illegal under HIPAA for the collector to respond to after the account is paid. If so, could be negligence that they use the bulk answer verify all options to reply back to the CRA without excluding the paid accounts (that they aren't allowed to touch). Simply put, they've been discharged from working those accounts, not by the Provider, but by the HIPAA law, once payment is made in full. I can't cite the clauses in HIPAA to back this up yet.... can anyone here?]

    >The collector is covered under the "business associates" provision of HIPAA.
    I agree. But they are also covered under other rules and restrictions that whychat brings out (even if the intent is only to scare the collector). Whychat Cites ARRA and HITECH and Omnibus which is a lot to take in, and I used to read Federal and State Telecomm laws for part of my job... and they're just as dull and just as arcane. Anyway, here's the relevant line: "The final rule sets new limits on how information can be used and disclosed for marketing and fundraising purposes, and it prohibits the sale of an individualsâ?? health information without their permission." I'm figuring that clearly the CRAs are selling my health information (at least the name of the doctor vis a vis the collection agency posted it in their collection trade line) and the CRA is doing it for profit. I may be able to make the same argument in a letter to the collection agency, but in my case the payment was in year A, I put in several disputes across the CRAs that came back "verified" or "updated" in the ensuing years, and finally in the last few weeks, I learned of the interaction between HIPAA and paid collections. I immediately sent the doctor my certified letter requiring privacy of all medical and billing records, and I have yet to send any more letters out.... now back to you.

    >There's no way a court is going to rule that a provider violated HIPAA by telling their business associate that you paid your bill.

    If, as you explained in your example, you make payment to the provider, while a collection agency is engaged, then the provider is REQUIRED to communicate something with the collection agency pertaining to the collection account that they assigned them, meaning yours: "We are recalling that file immediately." That message alone would not be a HIPAA violation because no reason would have to be given, but I believe it would activate a provision in the contractual agreement between the provider and the collection agency:

    The collection agency would automatically receive a fee equivalent to that as if they collected the full amount due (and take their fee and turned the difference over to the Provider/Original Creditor.) [Without this, the collection agency has no knowledge that you paid, and would still be collecting - but, with this, they are also mandated by FDCPA (law) to pull their postings (although many fail to do so) because to keep the posting on your credit profile now constitutes "misleading" and pushes into fraudulent, but even before we go there, let's look at ARRA:

    Security and Privacy provisions better explained in
    https:<whack><whack>www<dot>cdt<dot>org<whack>healthprivacy<whack>20090324<underscore>ARRAPrivacy.pdf and cited by WhyChat bring stronger issues than HIPAA into the forefront. Much of what tis covered in that article includes disclosure of your Protected Health Information Record (PHI), but there are mandates that that record be kept secure, encrypted, and encoded in ways such that the individuals records cannot be identified. ARRA has enforcement teeth, and actions (fines and criminal charges) can be brought against offending companies and their employees), including repeating fines that reach to $1.5Million/year.

    See http:<whack><whack>www<dot>hipaa<dot>com<whack>2009<whack>09<whack>hipaa-protected-health-information-what-does-phi-include<whack> It will answer the lingering question "is posting my unpaid or paid medical account on my credit report equivalent to publicly announcing and selling my protected health information?" My Answer = absolutely! (announcing for the collection agency, selling for the CRA).

    And I think that is why WhyChat's letter threaten's the CRA's. Because the effect of ARRA is to Chill the actions of the CRAs as follows: (and I'll use myself as the example). Collection Agency, placed my medical collections matter on all three bureaus. I negotiated Payment in full, for delete, but didn't get it in writing. I'd never seen anyone be dishonest before. Lesson for me. After payment, no update. Wrote courtesy letter reminding them of agreement and that I would be sending disputes to facilitate the removal. CRAs updated to "paid collection" and their attorney writes back saying no deal was made.... and I've been studying ever since.

    The HIPAA Collections Cycle is the latest that I've found that looks the most promising, because HIPAA authorizes the Provider to share information for the purpose of business operations like billing with business associates, but it Immediately prohibits the sharing of the same information with the same business associates the moment your (or my) account is paid in full. This is why the provider's having an ongoing relationship with the collector about other accounts is irrelevant -- because the law overrides that and instructs as to the relationship OR LACK THEREOF as pertains to your or my account.

    The way I see it. Whether my medical bill was $1 or $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million dollars), the act of posting that bill as a collection account on my credit report on any credit bureau is a violation of my protected health information because it (a) can be identified back to me (b) it meets this definition of health information "relates to the past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition of any individual, the provision of health care to an individual, or the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to an individual.â? Saying that "I" owe Medical Entity xxxxxxx $yyyy.yy ties the billing record to me, so it's not just an abstract database of billing records identifying "Male, 36 years old, and Female, 25 years old" in it. By posting a specific Statement about Medical Money like "Collection Account $xxx.yy unpaid, Doctors' Associates" into yours or my specific CRA record you have both individual identification and Health Information. [Ref: article "HIPAA â??Protected Health Informationâ??:What Does PHI Include?"] Based on that, one can have confidence when they use WhyChat's assertions with the CRAs. They knew that the Medical Collections were just that - Medical Collections. They should also have known that they shouldn't have been carrying Medical Collections. Thus they should have removed them without you/us having to ask.

    Why don't didn't they? Because they make money on our having poor credit, and their main customer, lenders, make more money on loans made to people with lower credit scores than to those with excellent credit, even taking into account the loans they don't collect.

    I hope I've left you with more understanding and fewer questions.

    - Treasurer

    P.S. Since I can't post URLs, I had to improvise.
    <whack> means forward slash, the key shared with question mark. Replace <whack><dot> and <underscore> with their equivalents

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