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Collection Negotiation Question


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I think I might have posted this in the wrong section the other day, so if you've read this already, I apologize for the re-post.

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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Well, I'm certainly sorry to hear of your health issues. Nothing like getting back on your feet to come back to a huge, fat bill-aye? Well, I'm not sure what you're looking for...

You have no "individual" medical insurace then? You may want to consider looking into that so as to avoid this in the future. There are many companies that offer individual policies for health coverage.

You've already agreed to something with this rep, to attempt to "re-negotiate" now would be a bit unrealistic. Granted, if you're financial situation is genuinely changing, you'd have the justification to contact them and let them know this.

The lump sum offer is a good idea IMHO, you may want to try it. See what they say. Get whatever agreement you DO come to, in writing. Make sure the "entire" thing is taken care of, that way nobody can come after you a couple years from now for any "remaining balance."

Another idea is to locate yourself some position with a company somewhere so that your earning a steady income. If you aren't earning enough to live the year off of much less afford these types of medical expenses, it'd be to your benefit to have a job a little more stable. That's a firm recommendation. Too bad our bills aren't "freelance" huh?

Oh, and there's some debate about contacting collection agencies. Many folks only recommend contacting them by phone while others say, "nah, writing only!" Either way, keep good records of ALL contact. Any time you've called, write it down in a journal-including the time, who you talked to, details, etc. If you're doing the writing route, keep copies of your letters and CMRRR's.

Good luck,


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