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Medical Debt Refusal of Payments

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    Medical Debt Refusal of Payments

    My wife's appendix ruptured a couple of months ago. Thankfully she had insurance which covered most of the bills, but it still left us with about $5000 to pay off ourselves. We began by sending them the $1500 we had in savings, and also continued to make as large of payments as we could to all 5 or so businesses involved.

    We live in New Mexico and are currently living on one person's (very small) income.

    The problem is that two of the medical companies are saying that they can't take our partial payments. We can't afford any more, or else we would just send it and be done with it. From the research I've done, it seems that the law allows companies to do this because there is some form of minimum payment agreement (such as the statements one would sign on a credit card application). However, since this was emergency medical care, I am positive that we never agreed to any kind of payment plan whether written or verbal.

    So, my question is this: If we never agreed to a payment plan does the medical company have to take our payments or will this medical emergency end up on our credit reports anyway because they can refuse?

    Also, it seems logical to me that if/when the reality of the situation is that the company will get their money in payments or not at all, then they would prefer getting paid to not. I just don't understand how or why a business would refuse a payment on a debt they are owed... How do I accurately and legally explain that we can not afford more than $X/month?

    Any help or info would be very much appreciated.

    Unfortunately, the medical company isn't required to accept your partial payments or agree to a payment plan. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't believe there is any law that would require them to do that.

    However, most medical institutions are generally open to discussing payment plan options, so it surprises me that you're running into problems. As you said, it certainly makes more sense for them to accept payment in full over time as opposed to sending you to a CA and paying them to collect on their behalf.

    There's not much you can do other than contacting them, explaining your financial situation and presenting the best payment plan that you can afford. If they do work with you, make sure you get any agreement in writing.
    Rock climber, ultrarunner, and credit expert at


      I used to work in the CA industry (boo, hiss!) and VERY seldom did we turn down a debtor who was making partial payments on a debt...granted, the partial payments had to be reasonable. For example, if someone owed $1K, a payment of $200 or $250 spread out over 5 or 4 months was acceptable. Paying anything less was usually not acceptable.

      What you are describing is somewhat surprising. A majority of medical debts are usually on payment plans similar to what you are describing. For them to refuse payment is very unusual.


        Tell them if they won't take your partial payments when you do have it, then they're just going to have to wait the entire period it takes for you to save up the whole amount. I think that's about all you can do. You could explain the whole "blood from a turnip" thing to them; Not that it will help.


          We have gone through exactly this for over the past year. It is like budgeting for a car payment. They got to tell us how much we paid each month or else it would go immediately to collections and affect our credit.
          They did not ask for the full amount, but if they had we would have paid it.
          The turnip point posted above is a good one. We were grateful others involved such as a Dr. and ambulance co. let us choose what payments we could afford.

          Hospitals used to not do this or be this strict.

          And this was for the deductible payment. Also, the health ins. premium deducted from paycheck went up.

          This one thing led me to be very glad we always kept a well funded emergency fund to always be able to make payments on anything if necessary or pay in full any demands.

          To realize the power hospitals financial offices have now - the guy Joe the Plumber that became famous during the presidential election - remember him? He had some liens on his home from some hospital debts.


            Only in this country

            This could only happen in America. Why our health system is so screwed up that people have to give away all their savings for an appendix rapture operation


              Thank you guys! It does seem ridiculous, but we've been able to make some of it a bit more manageable with your help. We were able to determine that our insurance company was not fully billed, so that what was a >$200 payment is currently only a $79 payment! Huge difference....It took us about 3 months just to get to this point, though, and I just couldn't imagine having to deal with a really extensive hospital bill....