I was haunted by this zombie bill.
Eddie Adams31, Austin, Texas
Approximate medical loan: $ 131
Medical problems: Sexual harassment
What happened: Eddie Adams was just graduating from college when he was sexually assaulted in 2013.
He lives in Chicago, and believes he was addicted to drugs at a bar.
Adams doesn’t remember what happened. When he woke up the next morning and became confused, he contacted the police and was instructed to examine him in the emergency room of the local hospital, which confirmed the attack.
Police never found the culprit. Then two years later, Adams started getting calls from debt collectors that he had a debt of .6 130.68.
At first, Adams was confused. The hospital told him that Illinois law prohibits medical providers from charging rape victims for medical examinations.
“I thought no one had the correct billing code or anything,” said Adams, now a medical student in Texas.
He explained the situation to the debt collector, who said that the company would keep a note in his file.
Nevertheless, about six months later, the same $ 130.68 was demanded from another borrower.
Adams explained the situation again. A few months later, there was another phone call.
This continues year after year, as its micro-credit moves from one collector to another.
Adams tried to contact the hospital, but Bill did not have them. It stemmed from a physicians’ practice that was discontinued.
Sometimes Adams breaks down on the phone when debt collectors call. “I was insane,” she recalls.
With each call, Adams said, he was forced to recover the worst day of his life and explain his trauma in an isolated voice at a call center somewhere in America.
“I was haunted by this zombie bill,” he said. “I couldn’t stop it.”
What’s broken: Federal regulators and consumer advocates have documented widespread problems across the debt collection industry over the years, urging collectors not to do enough work for bill verification and documentation before consumers follow up.
The problems are particularly acute in the case of medical loans. From 2018 to 2021, people contacted about medical loans often complained to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that they were not responsible for their debts, the agency found.
And in a nationwide survey conducted by the KFF, one-third of Americans who contacted a collection agency because of medical or dental bills said the debt was not theirs.
What’s left: Adams was relieved when the last debt collector reported the bill to a credit reporting agency, which lowered his credit score.
Adams appealed to the agency to remove the loan, which it did quickly.
Adams said he did not hate most of the people who called him over the years. “It looked like they were the only cogs in this giant lending machine,” he said.
About this project
“Diagnosis: Debt” is a reporting partnership between KHN and NPR that explores the scale, impact, and causes of medical debt in the United States.
The series draws on the “KFF Health Care Date Survey”, a poll designed and analyzed by KFF public opinion researchers in collaboration with KHN journalists and editors. The survey was conducted online and by telephone in English and Spanish from February 25 to March 20, 2022, in a nationally representative sample of 2,375 U.S. adults, including 1,292 adults with current healthcare loans and 382 adults with healthcare loans. The last five years. The margin of sample error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for full sample and 3 percentage points for those who have current debt. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sample error may be higher.
Additional research was conducted by the Urban Institute, which analyzes data from the Credit Bureau and other populations on poverty, race, and health status to find out where medical debt is concentrated in the United States and what factors are involved with high debt levels.
The JPMorgan Chase Institute analyzed records from a sample of Chase credit card holders to see how the balance of customers could be affected by major medical expenses.
KHN and NPR reporters also conducted hundreds of interviews with patients across the country; Talks with physicians, healthcare industry leaders, consumer lawyers, debt lawyers and researchers; And review studies and survey scores about medical loans.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that creates in-depth journalism about health issues. KHN is one of the three major operating programs of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), including policy analysis and polling. KFF is a non-profit organization that provides health information to the nation.
Use our content
This story can be republished for free (details).