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This is a bit embarrassing. A couple years ago I had been seeing a specialist doctor. I had been a victim of a crime, so the city/police department was paying for my treatment. It had been my understanding that the city/police would fully pay for a set number of visits, but it appeared that was based on the assumption the doctor's office was charging a lower rate (i.e. normally it was $200/hr but for low income or people who were victims of a crime it was $125/hr).

Anyway, I had stopped seeing the doctor and I'm better now, but the office sent me an email reading:

"Could we please get your police case number, so we can bill them for a outstanding visits?"

  • First, I don't know how I missed payments, as I always paid in person before I left.

  • Second, I noticed they had been inconsistent in the amount they were charging me per session (sometimes $200, sometimes $125). I pointed this out and said I think that they may owe me money back. They never responded.

  • Third, I do not know how it could have gone on for months with only at the end asking me for the police case number.

This was such a long time ago, I can't remember all the details clearly. Is there any point in pursuing this? Could it be I have a large bill incurring interest that will come back to haunt me?

  • I find this unclear on a few points. You mention that the city would pay for visits, but still you write that you paid in person - did you ever get that money back? Also, you both mention that you think they owe you money, but you're also worried that you owe them money. It's not clear to me on which side you think the interest will be, and what you mean by "pursuing" it. Do you want to try getting money back, or do you want to avoid having them send you a bill? – pipe Sep 6 '18 at 8:51
  • @pipe you're right that doesn't make sense. IIRC I paid up front and got reimbursed, but then some additional paper work may have cleared so they could have charged the police dept directly. At this point I don't so much care to get my money back, but I want to know if there's a chance they would come after me (with interest accumulated)? – user20745 Sep 6 '18 at 9:46
  • If you ask them to explain the bill, they may let it go. – A. K. Sep 6 '18 at 14:37
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Is It Too Late To Collect The Bill?

Probably not.

There is a statute of limitations for collecting unpaid medical bills that varies in length in different jurisdictions, and the age of the bill in the question is approximate, so it is hard to know for sure if this one is too old.

The relevant statutes of limitations in most U.S. states would be at least three years and in some it could be as much as ten or twelve years. If I recall correctly, in Canada, the relevant statute of limitations would be determined at the provincial level. Given that this was "a couple of years ago" realistically, it is probably not barred by the statute of limitations yet.

Are Interest Charges Allowed.

Generally yes.

Most jurisdictions allow for pre-judgment interest at a statutory rate from the date due in the absence of a contrary agreement and if the provider's paperwork with you provided for another interest rate, that would apply instead. So charging interest is allowed.

The existence of a dispute wouldn't change this result, although it would, of course, mean that if some portion of the bill was disallowed in a later lawsuit that interest would be owed only on the portion that the court found was actually owed.

The Provider's Remedies

A Lawsuit

If these bills are not paid, they can sue.

Statute of limitations, or errors in billing, or failure to seek reimbursement from the police as arranged with them, would all be legitimate defenses in lawsuit brought by the provider.

Given the modest amount allegedly owed and the existence of defenses, this might not be a very attractive one for the provider to choose to bring suit to collect.

Credit Reporting

On the other hand, in lieu of suing, the provider could simply report it as a bad debt with a credit reporting agency through their collections company.

This would look bad on your credit (for up to seven years in the U.S., although you could insist on filing a rebuttal statement as part of your credit report, I don't know how disputes about credit reporting work in Canada).

Paying them would almost admit that there was a late payment for credit reporting purposes, but also might prevent the incident from entering the credit reporting system at all.

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