Hospital Bills and Debt Help

I have a small hospital bill and it has now gone into collections. How can I get rid of this bill so my credit is not ruined?

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Bill's Answer: Resident Expert

Unfortunately, since a judgment has already been issued against you by your local court, there is no effective way to prevent the account from appearing on your credit report. Since judgments are a matter of public record, the credit bureaus will almost certainly know that a judgment has been issued against you and will report the information on your credit reports. The best way to mitigate the damage caused by this judgment would be to pay the debt off as soon as possible. Once the debt has been paid in full or settled, the creditor should file a satisfaction of judgment with the court. Soon thereafter, the credit bureaus should pick up the fact that the judgment has been satisfied; they should update your credit report accordingly and report the debt as having a $0 outstanding balance. To read more about credit reporting, I encourage you to visit the Credit Report Resources page.

Although any judgment appearing on your credit report will have a negative impact on your credit rating, a satisfied judgment showing a $0 balance should cause significantly less damage to your credit score than an unpaid judgment. You may not need to pay the entire balance of the debt to resolve this judgment; if you can raise a significant portion of the balance, say 50% or more, the hospital may be willing to settle the debt, allowing you to pay a portion of the balance and forgiving the remaining debt. Even if you cannot raise enough to offer a reasonable settlement, you should contact the creditor to discuss how you can resolve this debt. The hospital may allow you to establish a repayment plan, allowing you to pay an affordable amount each month toward the outstanding balance. Once you the account is paid off, either through a settlement or a payment plan, the creditor should file a satisfaction of judgment with the court, which should appear on your credit report within a few months of the satisfaction being filed with the court. Regardless of how you are able to resolve this debt, you need to make sure that you obtain a written agreement from the creditor before making payment, as you need to have documentation of your agreement in case the creditor attempts to renege or change the terms after payment has already been made.

I encourage you to pay off this account as soon as possible to minimize the damage to your credit profile. In order to expedite the judgment being reported as "satisfied" to the credit bureaus, you can obtain a copy of the satisfaction of judgment from the creditor or the court and send a copy to the credit bureaus along with a letter requesting that the status of the account and judgment be updated on your credit reports. You can contact the three major U.S. credit bureaus--Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion--by visiting AnnualCreditReport will also allow you to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus once every twelve months. I encourage you to regularly review your credit reports to make sure that all information being reported is accurate and up to date.

See the Federal Trade Commission document FTC Facts for Consumers: How to Dispute Credit Report Errors for more information.

To learn more about credit, credit reports, and credit ratings, I encourage you to visit the Credit Help page.

I wish you the best of luck in resolving this judgment, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.



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Comments (24)

Landy H.
Winchester, VA  |  October 31, 2011
How can deal with the hospital? i have a collection account from 6years ago and i having made paids every month, they told me i have to pay 150 dollars a month but that is too much so I'm making payments for 50 dollars, now i got a letter and they stated they will send my account to garnishment because i'm behing on my balance, they said I have to pay 1050 dollars in two weeks to avoid the garnishment, what can i do??? I try to made an agreetment but they refused it. thanks
October 31, 2011
See the following resources to understand more about your two issues — how to negotiate the medical debt and why a creditor does not have to accept the payment you offer:

Please ask any follow-up questions you may have here or on the appropriate page.

Evette E.
Ozark, AL  |  January 30, 2011
I live in alabama. I have been hit with the 25% garnishment of my pay check. I am not going to be able to afford what they want me to pay. What can I do to get the payment lowered. I don't want to file bankruptcy but I will if I cant find anyone to help me soon! Do you think you can help with some good words to help me....pls advise.....
January 31, 2011
Once you have let things degenerate to the point where your wages are being levied, you have few options. Prior to the garnishment, you may have been able to negotiate a long term payment plan with a monthly payment that you could afford. Now, the creditor has no incentive to be flexible with you, as the levy order makes it so that you pay them each paycheck. I can understand your reluctance to file for bankruptcy, but it seems to be the only route to stop the levy, unless you can prove that you don't owe the debt.
Lashay S.
Park City, IL  |  April 22, 2011
Can a debt collection agency still take you to court if you start to make payments monthly. Also is it legal for them to go into your checking account to take payments any time they want? Thanks
April 22, 2011
Regarding your first question, do you have a settlement agreement with the collection agent that you will pay $X for Y months to resolve the debt? If yes, and if you are paying $X regularly and on time, then the collection agent is breaking its contract with you by filing a lawsuit. If you do not have a contract to resolve the debt, and are sending the collection agent whatever you want whenever you want, then the collection agent may file a lawsuit against you.

No one can remove funds from your bank or credit union account without a) your approval, or b) a court order (in other words, a judgment).
Amanda L.
Madison, VA  |  January 22, 2011
I have a collection agency threatening to garnish my wages because of an unpaid medical debt. It's pretty funny because I am unemployed which is why I couldn't pay the medical bills in the first place. I tried sending in financial aid forms to the hospital two times, and never received a response. I went in to the hospital and spoke with a financial adviser there and she said that they had never received the financial aid applications and that it had already gone to collections so I would just have to pay it. Like I said before I'm unemployed and there is no way I can pay the 13,000 dollar bill........ advice?
January 24, 2011
You have a few options to consider. You can try negotiating directly with the collection agency. See if you can get them to agree to a settlement. If possible, see if they will settle for a reduced amount that you pay off in monthly payments. You may be eligible for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy that would discharge your legal responsibility to repay the debt. Even if you don't want to file for bankruptcy, it makes good sense to speak to a bankruptcy attorney to see if you would qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you do, it improves your negotiating position with the debt collector, who would get nothing were you to successfully file for bankruptcy. If you feel that you can't negotiate effectively on your own behalf, you should speak with a debt settlement company about hiring them to negotiate a settlement on your behalf. You can get a free quote from one of's approved debt relief providers. Lastly, you did not mention how long it has been since you incurred the debt or made any payment on it. Look at your state's laws for the statute of limitations for debt collection. Speak with an attorney in your area, if you are near or passed the time that the statue of limitations on your debt.
August 10, 2010
I am not aware of any Virginia law that prohibits the charging of interest on medical debt. (Readers, please correct me below.) If you are dealing with a collection agent, then it purchased your collection account for pennies on the dollar, although it has the right to collect the original balance plus allowable interest. Therefore, you have some room for negotiating a lump-sum settlement with the collection agent. Start at 10 cents on the dollar and work up from there.
Patricia D.
August 10, 2010
I have a medical bill from 5 years ago that I tried to pay. It had been sent to a collection agency. I am a resident of Va. and have been for many years. I was in Ak. as a visitor at the time I needed the hospital. The bill is for 998.00 and they want 1950.00. They have charged intereest and want the full amount although I tried to negotiate for what was originally owed.How can they charge interest on a medical bill on someone from the state of Va.?
July 29, 2010
With the right knowledge you can negotiate with even the most intimidating collection agent. See the resource Debt Negotiation and Settlement Advice to learn the basics in staring-down a negotiator. Two key facts to understand is the collection agent has the right to ask for the balance due, but that the collection agent purchased your collection account for pennies on the dollar. Start negotiations at 10 cents on the dollar and work your way up to 50. If you have the cash in hand for a lump-sum settlement, you will be in a much stronger position than if you are asking for a payment plan.
Mari .
July 28, 2010
Hello, my medical bill was sent to collection. The total amount I owe is less than two thousand. I got this bill from my pregnancy when I was 19 years old. Literally, there was no way I could pay the money right away. Things have changed now and I'm ready to pay off my debt, I was wondering if I should be aware of any organization that can help me negotiate monthly payments with the collection company or perhaps lowering the debt. Or should I deal with this directly with the collection company? I need some guidance, the collection company really frightens me.
January 15, 2009
You are welcome and hang in there. It is VERY confusing and a small mistake can create a VERY expensive problem... but live and learn as they say. Good luck Al.
Al N.
January 15, 2009
Thanks for your reply! I'm currently arranging an appeal with the Lab and they will be sending me a discounted and amortized rate. I applied for financial assistance with them and was able to reduce the bill more than half the cost than when charged to my insurance card. I'm just surprised that they didn't pre-certify or predetermine if the card covered it or not. No wonder a lot of people get indebted with Lab or medical bills. First, you donít know how much you will get charged, then surprise you a month after that you are not covered. I just hope that before the tests were done they told the patients that the cost of this test is $840, if your insurance card does not accept this you will be liable for this on personal account. Iím sure they had forms like this you had to sign quickly but NEVER included the cost. Seeing the figures could have made you wary and could have triggered you to double-checked. They gave an impression that youíre covered by not getting any credit card info making it seem covered. I find it disappointing that some medical offices or labs are taking advantage of people especially in situations about their health and quite off guard at that time. Thanks for your help again. This is really helpful. I learned an expensive experience!
January 14, 2009
I hear what you are saying, but technically speaking, it is your responsibility to check if a particular service provider is within the network of approved providers as per your insurance company, before you avail their services.
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