Stuck With a Huge Hospital Bill

April 21st, 2011, by

Q: Three years ago, I was involved in a traffic accident and was taken to the emergency room. A few months later, the hospital billed me for $35,000. I gave them my insurance information, but they never billed them. The insurance company now says it’s too late for them to pay.

I plan to buy a home with my boyfriend. Could the hospital put a lien against my new home?
The hospital has not filed any lawsuit to collect. I am not aware of any judgment against me for the money.

A: You should check all three of your credit reports to make sure there hasn’t been some adverse action taken against you. Just because you have not gotten any notices doesn’t mean the hospital hasn’t taken action.

You should also file a complaint with your state insurance commission. If you presented valid insurance information when you received treatment, then the bill should have been paid if you were covered. You may be able to resolve this through the commission. [In your case, that would be the California Department of Insurance.]

Next, check to see what your state’s statute of limitations is for debt collection. [In California, the statute of limitations for debt related to a written contract is four years.] However, that doesn’t mean the creditor can’t still file a lawsuit. If the statute of limitations is up, you have to let the court know.

If it’s not up, the hospital could still come after you–and any assets–to settle the debt. You should consult an attorney if you find action has been taken or will be taken.

You are right to be proactive about this issue. Don’t just assume it’s been settled.

Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 11:36 am