Many Atlanta residents have been subjected to invasive and meddlesome medical debt collection practices, such as wage garnishment and harassment. There is little that is more stressful than screening one's calls in an effort to avoid debt collectors, and worrying that one's employer might be contacted for a garnishment order.
Hopefully, some consumers will begin being treated with a bit more respect as a result of new debt collection standards that are currently being developed by health care providers and health care debt collectors.
The Healthcare Financial Management Association and ACA International, an organization of debt collectors, have recently banded together to come up with some guidelines for collecting medical debt. These organizations are working on creating standards as federal lawmakers are also working to regulate medical debt collection efforts.
Although the guidelines are not yet finalized, drafts include some very basic principles that one might think health care providers should already be following, such as communicating costs to a patient before sending a paper bill. This way, patients leave the medical facility knowing just what they will owe and when it is due.
As it stands, many people have no idea what they may owe for a medical procedure until receiving the bill months later.
In addition to the common courtesy of talking to consumers about their financial responsibilities, the proposed guidelines include allowing patients 120 days to resolve bills before extraordinary collection tactics - like wage garnishment and filing liens - occurs.
Whether these organizations will ultimately adopt fair debt collection practices remains to be seen. Here in Georgia, those who are facing wage garnishment or liens related to medical debt may benefit from seeking legal counsel. There may be debt relief options available as well as ways to stop the harassment.
Source: Forbes, "Hospitals, Debt Collectors Rush To Create Standards For Collecting Patient Debt," Evan Albright, Sept. 4, 2013