Medical Debts & Your Right to Privacy
Debt collectors have very specific rights regarding what information they can and can’t use, regardless of whether they obtained it legally or illegally. There are many debt collection laws to follow but the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act offers strict guidelines for anyone concerned about unpaid medical debts.
What Collectors Can Do:
Any debt collector — whether a hospital, doctor, other health care entity, or a collections agency, is entitled to know:
- The name, birthdate and Social Security number of who owes the debt
- The account number and payment history of the debt
- The name & address of whom the debt is owed to (even if it’s a psychiatrist or AIDS clinic)
What Collectors Can’t Do:
- Tell anyone else that you owe a debt
- Make your phone ring excessively
- Call you at work if they’ve been told you can’t accept calls at work
- Call you from 9pm-8am, or at anytime you’ve told them is inconvenient
- Use any profane, abusive or harassing language
- Do anything abusive, harassing or oppressive
- Lie about what they might do or how much you owe
- Threaten you with criminal prosecution or arrest
- Give false information to credit bureaus
So if, for example, you’ve fallen behind on payments to a doctor or hospital, they can turn the debt over to a collection agency. But you still have specific consumer rights that deserve protection. After all, the last thing you need when trying to pay medical bills is harassment from a collector.
If a debt collector violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in any way, you might be entitled to recover actual damages and/or statutory damages up to $1,000, as well as court costs and attorney fees, and — most important of all — make them stop calling you.
Larry P. Smith & Associates, a Chicago Law Firm, focus on consumer rights law. If you are having difficulties with bankruptcy, identity theft, debt collection or consumer fraud, request a free case review with Larry P. Smith & Associates.