Monday, March 7, 2011

Expat Rant

Even after 20 years here, there are some things that make me so mad I just have, blog about them.

This morning I took a call for my husband (who was at work. - Why do they call the house during office hours?). I took the woman's details then asked what it was about as my husband won't call back if he thinks it's a marketing call. Turns out is was a debt collection agency. This is not good as anything referred to a debt collection agency goes on your credit history for 7 years. Fortunately we pay off cards and generally have a good credit report, so it won't really matter...but it could.

OK, so I established there's an unpaid bill, which really surprised me as we're very good about paying bills, like most people. This one was from a hospital check-up back in October 2010, for a couple of grand. Funny. We have health insurance and have used doctors at that hospital many times. Hmmm....time to investigate.

Turns out that we were new to this particular department, who are claiming to have no details of our health insurance. The fact that all our information is on the computers at this hospital doesn't seem to matter. The fact that no one in the past few months has ever asked for our details doesn't seem to figure into this equation. Too late - it's gone to the debt collection agency.

Now, before you all get up in arms on our behalf - it can be solved, ie. we won't have to pay the dollar amount in question. Apparently the Ball & Chain has been trying to iron out this bullcrap for a few months now, and it's worse than dealing with the government. The individual department keeps telling him that they have no record of him ever having health insurance (as if..) despite the B&C giving them all the details every time he talks to them. For some reason, the person taking down the information must be writing them on the back of a cigarette packet or something, because they never seem to get put into any system.

And so the way companies typically deal with this type of problem is to refer them to a debt collection agency. Which, as I said, affects your credit rating. If we were a younger couple, trying to get a mortgage or a car loan, this would have a major impact. The fact that the error is fully and squarely the fault of the company means nothing.

Just makes my blood boil.



  1. Oh crap, that's outrageous! And you can't delete that from your credit rating? Argh. But don't you worry, it's the same here... In the house we live now has been a houseshare before. The housemates have missed to redirect their mail, i.e. we still (after 2.5 years) get most of it. And although I cross out their names and return it to the sender with 'unknown' written over it when it has landed on my doorstep, companies still keep sending bills. Within the past 2 months we had three different dept collecting agencies calling at our front door, wanting proof from ME that I live here. I mean, what on earth...

  2. That's outrageous...but unfortunately not so surprising. I've had that experience of giving people information loads of times then they're all "who are you? Wha?" next time I call.

    All I can say is "Bon courage!"

    PS MetMum - what a nightmare. We too keep getting mail for people who haven't lived her for upwards of a decade. I keep sending it back but frankly, I don't think the companies even look at the returned mail with bad addresses that they receive. They probably figure it's cheaper for them to just wait until the person who's credit rating it affects calls and throws a tantrum about it.

  3. Im irritated on your behalf anyway. Thats really really annoying. Idiots.

    And Ive had a similar experience to Met Mum. Because we live in an old pub that was repossessed over 15 years ago we still get mail for the guy who lost the place to the bank. In fact, about 6 years ago we had a letter that I decided to open rather than 'return to sender' and saw that in a short space of time the bailiffs would be on their way! We phoned the people and after much hassle on our part convinced them we had no idea who or where the guy was. Grrr.

  4. I bet this post will raise memories of some sort or another for most people. About ten years ago I got a call from a debt collection agency to say they were pursuing a debt for Amex of about £1800. Of course this was utter nonsense. This amount had apparently been outstanding for about three years. It too three years, a wrecked credit rating and much stress before it was finally sorted out. Amex were worse than useless until the credit agency challenged them to come up with proof that this account and therefore this bill had ever existed. Of course, they couldnt. It was wiped off everywhere. No apologies. Great relief. I now check my report monthly.

  5. Hi, so nice to meet you. Jody here, Kiwi living in Oakland, CA (lived in London for 15 years). Love your "rant"! And your description "must be writing on back of cigarette packet". Your writing is hilarious! The other side of the bizarre US coin is that I could not get a credit card for two years because I had no debt racked up. So eventually some company let me have a store card, I racked up some debt and then banks let me have a credit card. Appalling!

  6. From October? 2010?? Not even 2007 or something? Nuts!
    My DH just got a debt collection agency letter about a $100 bill from.... 1994!

    We also get calls for random people and Intellius has strangers listed at our address (which they refuse to remove) and that worries me about getting random stuff dumped on our credit reports, so I've started to check a lot too.

  7. OOOOHHHHH steaming from Suffolk here I loathe debt collections agencies and can get very huffy with them - I think after the last episode they won't be around again it involved a jack russell and a load of chickens apparently the chap calling round was scared of both but at least I had him cornered long enough to prove my innocence!

  8. Update - (this will make you even more furious) - we have created an online account at the hospital and as per their computers, we actually have a credit of $834! So now we have to find out where the error was made, whose fault it was (and heads will roll) and how we can clear it up with the debt collection agency.
    And people are worried that Obamacare will make the health system inefficient!

  9. Oh so glad that I'm living back in London.
    Really makes me appreciate the NHS!
    Sorry Expat mum - horrid situation that sounds like you're on the way to resolving. Be strong and make sure you get your $834 back from the hospital. :-)

  10. Thanks for sharing Expat Mum, this is so outrageous - and I identify with it completely as we're going through similar crap. (Our insurance company neglected to tell us that the doctors surgery hadn't sent them the paperwork they required until we turned up at the GP one day and they told us we had an outstanding bill of $2k for GP visits for my baby daughter. )

    The idea that privately run services are somehow more efficient is somewhat undermined by the US healthcare - and I think people know that in relation to 'over-medialisation'. Fewer people are aware that ar@e not talking to elbow is also the issue!

    I really hope the introduction of the free market to the NHS with the Coalition's new Health Bill doesn't beset the whole system with similar issues...

  11. Ooh, it's horrid isn't it. How annoying. We keep getting debt collection calls for my landlady and her son. I'm sure she's done nothing wrong but it makes me worry that someday bailiffs will turn up at our door.....

  12. We just got done fighting the local hospital for blood tests for DD. She had the same test done three times, several months apart. We got billed for the second of the three tests but not the others. Hospital blamed the pediatrician and vice versa. The hospital sent it to a collection agency despite a letter from the insurance company telling them they were to stop billing us!

    Actually, the third test may not have gone so smoothly as I got a call on Friday from Children's Boston wanting to know why they hadn't received the test results yet - for her appointment tomorrow. "We can't fax it unless we know who we're faxing it to."
    Umm - that would be the doctor who signed the lab slip.
    "Oh yes, and the fax number is on it too."
    Well, could you just go ahead and fax it then?!!

    Meanwhile the pediatrician called to ask why she'd had the test done again because they didn't authorize it. I'm hoping they completed the referral paperwork properly or we'll get a humongous bill for tomorrow's appointment!

  13. AA - it's terrible isn't it? Every time we have any kind of medical procedure here, I have to stay on alert till all the paperwork goes through and everything is financially settled. It's a full time job aligning the doctor's bills with what the insurance company is paying out. And of course, when you use a hospital, you end up with about 4 different bills for the one thing - one for the use of the hospital, one for the main doctor, another for the medications etc etc. Nightmare.

  14. This is so annoying as you have done nothing wrong.
    Makes me really grateful that we have the NHS, even though we often complain about it.
    Makes me feel that we take it for granted when I read things like this.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  15. Oh, I SHARE your frustration.

    15% of America's medical costs are down to the bureaucracy involved in billing - and they never get it right! When my son was born, we got multiple bills for multiple amounts and ended up finding hundreds of dollars worth of charges that we shouldn't have been billed for.

    I can't think of ANY other industry in which you agree for service before knowing the costs, or even that your 'insurance' will cover it as agreed. It's utterly revolting and medical reform needs to start with stripping medical billing to its bare bones and demanding efficiency and accountability.

    Good rant!

  16. It's unfuriating! Too many jobsworths without a brain cell...

  17. US healthcare system is a bureaucratic nightmare. We've had 6 different health insurance plans in the 6 years we've lived here (almost ended up with none at one point) and haven't stepped inside a hospital yet! It's a full time job for me just managing the finances for a family of five with daily prescription medicine needs!


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