AUSTIN (KXAN) — For its “Medical Debt Lawsuits” project, KXAN collaborated with ClearHealthCosts, a national journalism group focused on transparency in the healthcare marketplace. In our research and interviews, two of the main questions we heard were: what do I do if I have been sued by my hospital or doctor, and what should I do if I can’t pay my medical bill?
We compiled a list of tips and resources to help answer those questions for you below.
If you’ve been sued
- Know your rights. If you are the subject of a default judgment in a Texas court – or any other kind of judgment related to a medical bill – the creditor may not be able to take your home, your car or many forms of income including alimony, child support, Social Security, disability payments and others. Find details on your debt collection rights in this toolkit from Texas Appleseed, a public interest justice center. Nationwide, this National Consumer Law Center report shows state-by-state what can and cannot be confiscated in a debt collection case.
- Don’t give in to scare tactics. Collection activities are governed by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The law limits what tactics may be used, when calls may be made and so on. State laws like the Texas Debt Collection Act are modeled from the federal measure but have other specific provisions.
- Guard your credit. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act governs how debt collection is reported in credit reports. You can also file a complaint with the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner or the Texas Attorney General. If a creditor is putting multiple negative reports on your record, they may be skirting the law.
- Do your research. The National Consumer Law Center collects consumer debt advice and expert tips, including articles about medical debt. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has consumer tools on debt protection.
- Get legal help. Several Texas organizations offer services and advice to people with medical and other bills in collection. They include:
- Texas RioGrande Legal Aid – (956) 447-4800
- Lone Star Legal Aid – 1-800-733-8394
- Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas – 1-888-529-5277
- Texas Appleseed – (512) 473-2800
You can find more information about what to do if you can’t pay your bill here.
Explore the ‘Medical Debt Lawsuits’ project
- Read the story: Hear from people facing lawsuits and lawmakers and explore interactive charts and multmedia
- Listen to the podcast: A special episode about medical debt challenges across Texas and the U.S.
- Explore behind the scenes: Watch a timeline of lawsuits in Central Texas and learn how this story came together
- Get help: Learn what you should do if you’re sued over medical debt
Catalyst is a specialty unit within the KXAN investigative team focused on “digital-first” storytelling that aims to make a positive change in society. The unit takes a multi-platform, innovative approach to each project and rotates among various investigators.