Medical bills are costs or expenses related to various types of medical care, both for prevention as well as treatment. They can cover anything from routine checkups to serious emergency treatment measures. Medical bills are generally issued to people who visit hospitals or medical clinics. Health insurance is also a major factor in the payment of medical costs.

In most instances, payment for medical expenses is done in increments over time, not in full amounts. This is especially true for larger expenses. Thus, medical bills represent legal obligations for patients to pay back the debts that they owe from their treatment or care. Medical bills commonly cover costs such as:

  • Hospital stays (including overnight and long-term stays);
  • Emergency room visits;
  • Costs related to ambulance and other transportation services;
  • Various medications and prescriptions;
  • Care and treatment related to pregnancy and childbirth;
  • Surgery expenses;
  • Costs associated with therapy or rehabilitation procedures;
  • Medical consultation and advice fees;
  • X-rays and other specific procedures; 
  • Various other medical costs

Aside from itemizing the different expenses associated with the medical treatment, medical bills can also contain other important information and instructions. These can include: 

  • Method of payment;
  • Payment frequency;
  • Interactions with medical or health insurance companies;
  • Consequences of non-payment or late payments; and
  • Various other provisions.

Do Medical Bills Expire?

A common question from many hospital patients is, “How long do you have to pay medical bills?” The payment period for medical bills may vary according to the health organization. 

In most cases, a person has around 180 days to pay a medical bill before it goes to collections. This is where the hospital or health care organization may begin making efforts to collect on the unpaid medical bill debt. At this point, the unpaid debt may be reflected on the person’s credit score, and can have negative effects on their credit. Unpaid medical bill debt can remain on one’s credit score for many years. 

If the person still does not pay after the bill has gone to collections, the medical organization might initiate a medical bill lawsuit against the debtor. But, there are statute of limitations for things like medical debts, and these statutes depend on which state you incurred the debt. 

Once the statute of limitations have passed, and no legal action has been taken against you, then you cannot be sued or forced to pay the debt owed. What often happens is once the debt is passed, they are bought by another creditor who will aggressively pursue action to make you pay the debt. But, once the limitations have run then they are no longer allowed to force you to pay. Instead, they can only ask you to voluntarily pay the debt.

Remember, the debt will never go away, but your legal obligation to pay the debt can go away. 

What are Medical Bill Lawsuits?

Medical bill lawsuits are lawsuits that are issued from hospitals, doctors, collection companies, or other parties in order to get a patient to pay for their medical costs. This is usually reserved as a later measure, after other efforts like debt collection have failed. 

These types of lawsuits are somewhat common in cases where a person has undergone medical treatment that is unexpected, and that they are unprepared to bear the cost of. Examples of these are emergency costs associated with various types of accidents, and costs associated with long-term treatment for serious illnesses. 

Here, the hospital or collection company may be requesting the court to demand that the patient pay for the outstanding costs. This can sometimes be done through a court order that requires the person to make the payments. 

The term “medical bill lawsuit” can also refer to other situations, such as when medical costs are factored into a damages award in a personal injury lawsuit. It will depend on the circumstances surrounding the use of the term. 

What if I Have a Dispute Over a Medical Bill I Received?

In many cases, conflicts over a medical bill can be resolved before they reach the point where a medical bill lawsuit becomes necessary. Some steps to take to help resolve a medical bill dispute can include:

  • Negotiating with the Health Care Provider or Hospital: In many cases, the organization that issued the bill may be open to negotiations regarding the payment terms. They may be able to work out a plan that factors in major life changes, such as a loss of employment or other factors. Oftentimes, the organization would like to keep the patient enrolled in their services, and may be willing to work with them on the repayments; 
  • Speaking with Your Medical Insurance Provider: Sometimes, a dispute or discrepancy over a medical bill may actually be the result of the way your insurance is interacting with the hospital. For instance, there may be an error in your insurance terms, or a lapse in coverage after you changed jobs. It can be possible to avoid a lawsuit if this is one of the causes of the medical bill dispute; or
  • Consult with a Lawyer: Changes in the law can sometimes affect a person’s medical insurance coverage, hospital bill fee rates, medical bill taxes, and other elements of a medical bill. It may be the case that you need guidance or updated information in this area, which may help to resolve the dispute. 

In some situations, a medical bill dispute might actually be the result of an error on the part of the hospital or medical clinic. In other instances, there may be elements of medical malpractice or negligence, or even health care fraud. For instance, a healthcare organization might be found liable for intentionally overcharging their patients. 

In these types of situations, there is the possibility that many patients’ medical bills are affected by the root cause or issue. Here, a class action lawsuit might be appropriate due to widespread errors or legal violations. Again, the input and guidance of a lawyer can be valuable in helping you respond to a medical bill dispute. 

Do I Need an Attorney to Resolve My Medical Bill Dispute?

Medical bills can be complex and may involve significant amounts of debt or payments. You may need to consult with a lawyer in your area if you need help sorting out a medical bill dispute. Your attorney can provide you with advice and legal guidance for your situation. Also, if a medical bill lawsuit is being filed against you, your attorney can help prepare a strategy for your case.