Medical bills may be terribly complex. There are also misconceptions about medical expenses which may also appear as medical debt on your credit reports without your knowledge.

Approximately 31.6 percent of Americans have collections accounts on their credit reports. Medical bills constitute over half of all collections with creditors. These bills often go to collections before consumers even know they owe anything.

Myths

Never assume that insurance will cover everything. It depends how a visit or procedure is billed to insurance.

Paying medical bills does not always keep them out of collections. Providers may turn bills over to collections even when a patient is making small payments or made a payment late under a payment arrangement. To avoid this, set up a written payment arrangement with a provider.

Medical collection accounts receive different treatment than other bills sent to collections on credit reports. Medical debt has less impact on these reports. The three credit bureaus also delay 180 days before listing debt on credit reports.

Unlike other debt that remains on reports for seven years, medical debt is removed after it was paid or is being paid by insurance. But unpaid medical debt in collections stays on credit reports for seven years from the delinquency date.

Protect your rights

You have the legal right to written to confirmation of debt and your right to dispute it.

A billing statement may not always contain a detailed breakdown of charges. But you can make a written request and then review all the charges for their accuracy.

You should go through the explanation of benefits that is sent by insurance companies before the provider’s bill. This should reveal what the provider charged, how much was disallowed by insurance and what it paid, and how much you owe. Seek answers from your provider and insurance company about the visit or treatment that was not covered. The amount that you were billed should not exceed what the insurance claims you owe.

Make payment arrangements as soon as possible. Providers may have procedures to create payment schedules or discount bills if payment is made in advance.

Finally, request monthly payments and seek documentation that the provider or collector agreed to this schedule. With this proof, you can dispute incorrect items on credit reports.

These problems may be compounded in these difficult times. An attorney can help provide ways to address this debt.