Medical debt collectors can be relentless, and when someone has no money or resources to pay medical debts, this process can be extremely stressful. Recent reports have shown that private hospitals are not the only entities persistently collecting on medical debt. Federally backed governmental institutions, including military hospitals, are some of the worst offenders when it comes to pushing patients hard to pay on their medical bills.
A recent piece in The Atlantic highlighted just how dire the situation has gotten for many individuals. A Texas man, Ricardo Gonzalez Jurado, faced aggressive debt collection efforts from Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), a trauma center where he received treatment after sustaining significant injuries on a work site. Gonzalez Jurado did not have the funds to pay his bills in full, so he began a payment plan with the hospital. He kept to the payment plan and even agreed to pay more after the hospital requested higher payments. He later received a letter from BAMC after some time stating that his balance had been paid in full even though he had only paid a portion of the bill at that point. Despite trying to reach the hospital and continuing to send in his payments, BAMC returned his monthly checks.
A year later, he received a letter from the U.S. Department of Treasuring informing him that he owed over $35,000 in unpaid debts to BAMC, which was $15,000 more than what he owed at the time he was told his bill was paid in full. He attempted to reach the Treasury Department by calls and certified letters with no response. He did, however, notice later when trying to apply for a mortgage that he could not receive financing due to a collection effort on his credit report by the Treasury Department.
What causes the difference in how military hospitals pursue debt collection, as opposed to private or nonprofit hospitals? Most nonprofit or private hospitals are required to follow federal and state charity-care laws, which state that they are to write off the medical debts of those who are low-income or uninsured. However, military hospitals, which are federally funded, are required to take aggressive and prompt action when settling any medical debts, according to federal regulations.
In the case of Gonzalez Jurado, he had no choice which hospital facility treated him due to the nature of his injuries. Like many patients, he was brought there because of that hospital was the best one chosen by emergency medical personnel to treat the type of injuries he sustained. It is a common occurrence. In fact, 85 percent of all trauma patients admitted to BAMC last year needed emergency care like Gonzalez Jurado.
According to data from the Department of Defense Health Agency, civilian patients owed $198 million to military hospitals. After this 2014 audit, military hospitals began to be more aggressive when collecting on past-due debts.
Once military hospital debt is transferred to the Treasury Department, all bets are off. The government can withhold that person’s wages, tax refunds, and even 15 percent of his or her Social Security income, all without a court order. When someone is low-income and relies heavily on those forms of income, the effects of this can be devastating.
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Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.