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My question is regarding payment of a medical debt.

Chico, CA |

I incurred a medical debt from an ambulance company for taking me to an emergency room. There was no discussion of charges or payment requirements at the time of the service. The company was aware that I had no medical insurance. They have requested a minimum payment amount to be paid each month. The amount is more than I can afford. I have offered to pay less and they say that if I don't pay the minimum they will turn the debt over to collection. My question is, can the company turn my debt over to collection if I am making regular payments and demonstrating a willingness to pay the debt in full. There is no signed contract between the parties.

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Attorney answers 6


As a general principle of law, a creditor who has performed a service for a debtor is not obliged to accept the payment terms the debtor can perform, but may have its own payment terms, and may hire a collection agency if those terms are not met, and the debtor is liable for the reasonable value of the service rendered.

Not legal advice as I don't practice law in California or hold California licensure. It's just my two cents on the facts you describe in light of general principles of law. If you need legal advice, please consult a lawyer who holds California licensure. I practice in Vermont ONLY.


You asked: can the company turn my debt over to collection if I am making regular payments and demonstrating a willingness to pay the debt in full.

Answer, YES.

The ambulance company is not even required to accept any payments, they can simply demand full payment. If you don't pay, they can turn it over to collection. The law (for better or worse) does not give points for trying.

The existence of a contract is a non-issue. They performed a service, they are entitled to be paid. That is all that is required.


Yes, because willingness to pay the debt in full on your own terms is of little significance to a creditor. If the inverse were true, then all debtors would pay $1/year for 100 years on a $100 debt.


They can turn the account over to a collection agency. But that will not result in your paying any more money. First of all, the medical provider is entitled to only the "reasonable value" of their services. They charge different amounts for the same service, depending upon who is paying, i.e., Medicare rates are different from private insurance rates, and MediCal rates are different. The rates paid to different insurance companies is different. Secondly, if they sue you, the collection agency will need witnesses and medical records from the original provider. Under HIPPA, the provider cannot give confidential medical records to a debt collector. third, if they go to court, the collection agency will need to bring in witnesses from the ambulance company. I bet that the contract between the ambulance company and the collection agency states that the ambulance company is not required to provide witnesses who will testify in court.


If you cannot afford to pay this bill, and if you have any other outstanding debts, it might be a good idea to discuss filing a bankruptcy with a bankruptcy attorney in your area. Yes, the company can turn your account over to a collection agency, regardless of your willingness to pay. If they do send your account to a collection agency, I would recommend trying to workout payment arrangements with that agency.


You are not the only one that ends up in this situation over medical bills. Hire an attorney for an hour to see if they can negotiate a better payment arrangement. The impied possiblity of a bankruptcy might bring the ambulance company to its senses. I guess I would not feel lawyerly unless I wrote a disclaimer to this answer - after all, that is what we lawyers are trained to do. So here it is. Disclaimer: Trying to provide a complete answer to a brief question without meeting the questioner and without getting all the facts is much like internet dating. Despite what you have been told by the person you have met online (and they tend to always put everything in the best light for themselves), once you meet them face to face you realize how much has been left out. People tend to bend the facts and there is always the other side to the story. So, this answer is about as valuable as the price that was paid for it. It should not be considered legal advice. It is meant as a general overview of how the law could apply to a very broad set of facts that may not have any applicability to the actual circumstances of the person making the question. It is hoped to provide some understanding of the broad field of law that could come into play. No attorney-client relationship has been formed with the questioner and no attorney client relationship was ever anticipated by my response to this question. I would also like to remind you that I am only licensed in the State of California, and the answer provided is based upon my knowledge of California law.