What Can and Cannot be Done to Collect on a Medical Debt

Calls from debt collectors can be annoying. The FTC says more people in Florida complain to them about debt collection than other issues.

Debt collection agencies have rules they have to follow when attempting to collect a debt.

“They’re not allowed to come to your house,” said April Lewis-Parks of Consolidated Credit Counseling. “They’re not allowed to threaten you. They’re not allowed to talk to your neighbors and tell them you owe money. They have to deal directly with you.”

Debt collectors can only call between certain hours also. In Florida they can only call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

You can also request that all communication from a debt collection agency has to be in writing.

Hospitals have other means to be able to collect on medical debt.

They can file a lien in your name if you’ve been in an accident.

NBC 6 Responds found a lien in Miami’s Eduardo Gandolfo’s name and he was surprised by it.

“Totally surprised,” Gandolfo told us.

The lien indicated he owed $7,302.18 to Baptist Hospital.

“For anyone, $7,000 is a lot of money,” Gandolfo said.

But Gandolfo told us he’s meticulous about keeping track of his money at home and for his business.

He said his son, Mateo, had been in an accident about a month before the date on the lien. But he told us he didn’t owe anything because insurance covered the emergency room visit.

Gandolfo called Baptist Hospital and so did we.

The hospital issued a statement:

“While we can’t comment on specific details due to patient privacy laws, for cases involving accidents, it is standard practice to file a lien that attaches to the proceeds of any claims associated with the accident. According to Miami-Dade County Ordinance 25C, hospitals may file liens when there is a third party payer involved, such as an auto insurer because many times these payments from third parties are made directly to the patient.”

Gandolfo told us the hospital confirmed his bill had been paid and the lien would be released.

“I really thank you,” he said. “I was not aware of this at all.”

Attorney Michael Walrath explained hospitals file a lien to make sure they get a portion of a settlement if an accident leads to a lawsuit. But if there’s no lawsuit and the debt is paid, he said, then the lien is meaningless.

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