Before 2007, Illinois residents did not have specific, state-enforced rights against medical collectors. In 2007, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Fair Patient Billing Act to protect residents against unfair medical billing and collections practices. Also, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regulates the methods under which any debt collector can contact consumers living in Illinois.
Due to a past pattern of excessive medical bills and resulting collections against underinsured and uninsured people living in Illinois, the Fair Patient Billing Act pays special attention to hospital billing practices. Hospitals must provide patients, including insured people, full details of all charges assessed. People with financial and insurance problems must be provided with all available repayment options, including installment payment plans and charity care benefits.
Additional Billing Rights
Hospitals and doctors should reduce fees for the needy whenever possible, according to the Fair Patient Billing Act. Also, when hospital staff negotiates repayment plans with financially troubled patients, they must be reasonable. Repayment plans should take into account the patient’s income level, basic living expenses and other debts. Only if the patient refuses to negotiate the financial situation with the hospital can the account go to a collection agency.
If the hospital or doctor turns the account over to a collection agency after exhausting all other options, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies. Under federal law, medical bill collectors cannot call Illinois residents outside the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in their time zone unless the consumer says it is OK to do so. They also cannot call repeatedly, lie, make empty threats of lawsuits, discuss the account with other people or use abusive language. If a medical debtor demands in writing that the calls stop, the bill collector must comply or risk fines.
Additional Collection Rights
Medical bill collectors cannot send postcards to Illinois residents about their debts, according to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. They also cannot place information on the outside of the envelope that reveals the identity of their company. Letters must also include the original hospital or doctor’s name, the amount due and the fact that the correspondence comes from a debt collector. If the patient disputes the validity of the medical debt, the collection agency must promptly investigate the dispute. If the agency already placed negative entries on the patient’s credit report, they must update the report to note that the claim is disputed by the consumer.