Q: My son had is wisdom teeth removed a couple months back, he is 19 and full time college student. Well insurance did not cover what we thought it would and now there is a $1200 balance due. They are calling him stating they are going to send him to collections as he is an adult. I realize the easy thing is to pay the bill but his father and I both are having financial diffictulties and just do not have the money or much money at all. They want $150 a month which is hard to cough up right now. Can they send a full time college student to collections?
This is hard because I don’t want his life starting this way. Any advice would be great. And we are located in Michigan.
A: Your son is legally responsible for his unpaid dental bill given that he is an adult according to the law. That responsibility does not change because he is a full-time student. Therefore, your son’s medical debt can be sent to collections.
Here are a couple options to consider for getting his debt paid and avoiding his having a collection account on his credit record. First, your son should call the medical provider right away to make it very clear that he wants to pay his debt and to explain his situation (that he is a full time student and that you and your husband want to help him clear up the debt, but that you are having financial struggles and so you cannot afford to give him $150/month to pay what he owes).
Before he calls, figure out how much you can realistically afford to pay on his debt every month so that during your son’s call he can suggest a payment plan. It’s a good idea for him to offer something less than what you can actually afford to pay so that if the provider rejects his offer, your son can come back with a higher offer. This negotiating approach may help make the medical provider realize that you and your son are really trying to figure out a way to pay his debt and therefore the provider may be more open to agreeing to a payment plan you can afford. If your son and the medical provider are able to reach an agreement, he should get the agreement in writing before paying anything on it.
Second, is it possible for your son to get a part time job to help raise the money he needs to pay his debt without jeopardizing his grades? If your son does get a job, he should communicate that fact to the provider. Again, the information will let the provider know that he is serious about paying his debt.
The key to your son minimizing the likelihood that his debt will be sent to collections is to keep the lines of communication open between himself and the medical provider so that the provider knows what he is doing to get the debt paid. Otherwise, the provider will assume that he is ignoring it. Also, it’s important to get the debt paid as quickly as possible. If the debt does end up in collections, the same advice applies, but your son will be communicating with a debt collector rather than with the medical provider. Go here to learn more about medical debt collection and your son’s options.
This guest post was submitted by Mary Reed, coauthor of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights. She answers questions about how debt collection laws can protect you against abusive debt collectors.
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