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Collection Conundrum


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In April, I had to visit the ER due to a kidney stone attack. I don't have health insurance. Within two weeks, I received three bills from the hospital. The biggest of the three was for about $4000. I couldn't afford to pay, and procrastinated calling the hospital to work out a payment plan.

In early October, the bill went to collections (specifically, North Eastern Collection Agency a.k.a. NEAR).

I know I've made a few mistakes already, but here's what happened:

I spoke to a rep on the phone several times. He offered me a deal whereby the debt would be lowered to about $3200, but I'd have to pay it in two payments. Not possible. So he said the only other alternative would be to pay a initial sum and then we could discuss a payment plan for the entire amount. Stupidly (I think), I agreed to this.

We worked out a deal where I'd send NEAR a post-dated check (dated November 30th) for $550, which was all I could scrape together. I sent the check with a letter detailing our conversations thus far, and put it out of my head for a few weeks.

After talking to a friend, however, I realized that I probably could have negotiated the total down to a lower amount. So I'm wondering what my best next step might be.

I work on a freelance basis, and my current assignment ends in January. If I tell them I won't have much (or any) income soon, will that offer me any kind of leverage? My friend suggested I give them this information and offer to pay a single lump sum of $1500 or so, and call it even.

Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help!

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