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Is It True That If I Send $1 a Month The Creditors Will Leave Me Alone? – Shanna

“Dear Steve,

I debate politics a lot with friends and even complete strangers. More than once someone has insisted that “If you just pay $1 a month they have to accept it and they can’t send you to collections and it will have no negative impact on your credit score.” Usually it is in regards to medical debt. In fact, in debating healthcare reform I was told no one ever under no circumstances needs to file bankruptcy because of medical bills. But, I’ve alo gotten that statement when discussing mortgage payments, credit card payments, student loan payments and just about everything else. I’ve even heard “I know it’s true because my grandma/aunt/distant cousin did it” I ask for proof, some bill number, rulings, or some other ssource to validate their claim. I never get it, but they continue to believe they are 100%, without a doubt correct.

While the logic completely escapes me, I’ve tried to find out the exact law on this so I can have it handy next time the argument is (inevitably) made. But, searching gets me more people making the claims for or against and no concrete proof one way or the other. I’m sure it is just that I am not searching the right terms, or something. I emailed the state’s (MO in this case) Attorney Generall as well as the Missouri Division of Finance. No answers (I’m suspecting they had a good chuckle and deleted the email). So I’m hoping you can give me a definitive answer since this is either a VERY common misconception or I am somehow possibly completely misunderstanding the issue.

Leagally, who decides what the minimum payment is on a medical bill, do they HAVE to accept anything you give them, at what point can they send it to collections and have and affect on your credit score?


Dear Shanna,

The belief that you can only send $1 a month to avoid collection on medical debts is bullshit. I didn’t want to sugarcoat it for you. Who ever is giving you that advice is the last person that anyone should trust for debt help. Run away!

Having run some big medical practices in my day I happen to know quite a bit about this subject. Medical debts are debts incurred without a payment plan and technically the bill is due in full upon receipt unless a prior plan was agreed to between the medical provider and patient.

The patient typically signs a statement they are fully responsible for the debt regardless of their insurance. And many people also refuse to pay when their insurance company does not pay on a timely basis. Insurance is there as a benefit for the patient, not the doctor. If the insurance company does not pay the patient must. Some doctors will “accept assignment” meaning they will accept as payment in full what the insurance company determines to be the usual and customary rate for that service in that area. The insurance may then pay a portion of that debt, the patient the balance and the rest is erased.

When a medical provider creates a payment plan they do so out of courtesy to the patient, not because they are obligated to do it. Sending $1 a month will not only not keep you out of collections but it won’t stop the medical provider from suing the patient to collect.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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