Medical Bills – How Much Damage Should They Do?

Regardless of the many ways we try to avoid getting ill or injured, with our antibiotic clothing, and our plastic bubble-wrapped lives, sometimes there is just no avoiding it.

It seems that everywhere I look this time of year someone is suffering from colds or flu and it’s been beaten into our brains as Americans that unless we are laid out on a gurney, we must go on. So we try. And sometimes a gurney is just where we end up.

While this may paint us as stoic, it’s also stupid. A serious illness or injury can not only keep you out of work for unforeseen periods of time, it can affect your credit report negatively far beyond your illness or injury.

Here’s 1 scenario- you break your leg skiing with your buddies (alcohol may have been involved). While not an illness, still winter related and emergency room related and perfect for our scenario, this gives you an idea of what I am talking about. The ski resort calls ABC Mt. Rescue to get your stupid butt off of the mountain. You are then transported the the hospital, by 123 Ambulance services. The EMT’s on both vehicles have notated every minute they have spent with you, every band-aid they have used, every doctor on the other end of the radio at the hospital, now waiting on your stupid butt (oh, yes, you are already on the clock at the hospital). You arrive at the Little Country Inn Hospital which has been on the radio with EMT’s for an hour already, trying to determine how best to reattach your leg. The E.R. doc consults with the LCIH surgeon who is not an orthopedic surgeon, who is now being flown in to consult on your case. But wait, alcohol may have been involved, so they have to draw blood, and take urine and make certain that you aren’t intoxicated when wheeled into the o.r. to reattach your leg. Now, in the O.R. we have on anesthesia…WOW!!! You have only been stabilized and how many people are billing you?!?

It is the same with illness or injury and they are interchangeable as to the number of people you will consult with before you are ever even treated. I have great respect for people in healthcare and frankly think that they wouldn’t be so darned paranoid if we weren’t such a litigious society, but it is what it is and here we are.

If you have insurance, some or most of these will be picked up. Ironically, the insurance companies usually have a deal with the providers to adjust the costs so that the patient only pays a certain amount. The only ones that get billed for the full amount are those without insurance.

But, I guarantee that somewhere, someone was missed. And somehow in your pain induced fog they didn’t get your correct billing address or insurance information. So you never think about until the day you go to buy a house or car the lender runs your credit.

Now for the $64,000 (your medical bills) question?

Should these bills go on your credit report? If they do shouldn’t all of your paid medical bills be on there as well? Should a credit report be used only as a collection tool?

As a consumer you have rights and laws that protect you.