|At least we are reducing the load.|
Image by renjith krishnan
The last few days I spent quite a bit of time sorting through my stack of medical bills. I had received a decent payment from the flash card project and decided that, despite my desire to use it on more entertaining endeavors, taking care of this mess would probably be a much better decision.
We had recently received a notice from the Most Evil Collection Agency Ever (hence after referred to as MECAE), one that we had finally paid off before, but was now back. I’ve (unfortunately) dealt with collection agencies before, and this company is the most aggressive, nasty one I’ve ever worked with. Explaining the situation does not help. They would be perfectly happy with you living on the street as long as they get paid. They are also the agency that our primary medical providers work with. Our providers don’t dink around either; as soon as you are late you get sent to this agency. Fun.
After numerous phone calls back and forth and several hours spent on hold (no, I’m not joking), I was able to set up payment plans with just about every creditor we have left. Do you know how good this actually feels? The initial payments have been made and the remainder of the payments are scheduled. The plan at this point is to finish this wave and then pull our credit reports and see what else is lurking out there. We will also have receipts in hand to dispute any debts that have been paid and not yet erased. I feel pretty good about this plan.
Here are the steps I took to sort through the mess and get it all straightened out:
- Gather together all of the bills.
- Open each one. Yes, I hate this part, too.
- Sort them into piles according to creditor.
- Go through each individual stack and try to eliminate duplicates.
- If you have bills that have gone to a collection agency, try to link up the agency with the creditor. You don’t want to accidentally pay the same bill twice! You may need to call the creditor to find out which bills have gone to the agency and which ones the creditor is still holding. Eliminate any duplicates.
- If you have medical bills, scrutinize them carefully. Have any mistakes been made? According to Consumer Reports, 80 percent of bills from hospitals contain medical errors! While errors are less frequent at clinics and labs, they are still possible. Some of the most common errors you might find are procedures that were never performed or failing to bill to your medical insurance. If you encounter an error, contact the number on the bill to straighten it out.
- Go through the remaining bills and pay off the small ones. This will give you a great sense of satisfaction and prevent future problems.
Once this is done, contact the creditors with the largest bills and make payment plans. I know this part sucks. It sucks for me too. Some of them will threaten and try to coerce you into larger chunks, but others will be glad you called and will willingly work with you. Use your nice, indoor voice and be polite. This will actually work wonders, since they are used to dealing with people who are pissed off and nasty.
The other step I took that helped me keep my sanity throughout this mess was to work in 25 minute segments and take a break between each segment. I got up and walked away from the computer and the phone. This helped to reset me for new phone calls and reduce the stress and tension I was feeling. I think if I hadn’t done this I would have started getting snarly at the people on the other line and probably wouldn’t have made such good plans.