The struggle with debt is a real problem that many, if not most, Marylanders face – and it’s not getting any better. According to Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, In 2018, approximately 10% of the population of Maryland was in poverty and another 20% were in asset debt (unable to survive if they suddenly lost their income). Medical bills, being one of the top 3 debtors in the United States, become difficult to collect when the vicious cycle of debt continues while the cost of living rises and wages remain stagnant.
Other than taking legal action in Maryland’s District Courts (for debts less than $6000) against debtors, there are other legal Maryland state-specific options that can increase the chances that your bills will be paid. Options include sending bills to an internal debt collection office (for hospitals) or selling unpaid bills to external collection agencies who will then pursue payment using their own methods. Regulations under The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), which controls the abilities of third-party debtors, apply to the state of Maryland as well.
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Some doctors and hospitals face problems when attempting to collect a debt from unpaying patients. Human compassion will often grow bills even higher as previous unpaid balances get bigger as more medical needs arise. The statute of limitations in Maryland requires that lawsuits for unpaid debt be filed within 3 years from the last date of activity – leaving many medical professionals unable to take legal action if they wait too long or miss the date while focusing on other debt collection options. If you do take legal action and the judge rules in your favor, wages may be garnished, assets and bank accounts seized, or even the assigning of Body Attachments to those who don’t appear in court.
Many of the debt collection laws in the United States and in Maryland are outdated and inconsistent with modern-day wages, population, etc. Politicians such as state Sen. Will Smith have sought out reform to legislation, which has until now remained unsuccessful. It’s important for all agencies and businesses, including hospitals and medical practices, to remain educated on the law and keep informed about any changes that may be set to occur.
Families and citizens want to pay their bills, especially those that arise from necessary living expenses such as healthcare. Showing support and kindness towards patients and their financial situations may do better for collection debts than taking extreme measures. Communicating about fees and costs with patients prior to treatment or care, if possible, can help alleviate the surprise for these people when the bills arrive. If you haven’t incorporated payment plans and included late fees and penalties as part of the repayment process, it’s a good idea to consider it or to seek advice on the proper process for developing repayment plans.
If you’re having difficulty collection of medical debts, there are options and support to help guide you to making the right decisions. Reach out for a consultation now.