How Long Can a Medical Debt Collector Try to Collect in California?
Medical debt can be a major burden for patients and their families. However, medical providers and hospitals need to be compensated for their services, and medical debt collectors can be tasked with collecting unpaid medical bills. In California, medical debt collectors must follow certain guidelines outlined by state and federal laws. This article will provide an overview of how long a medical debt collector can try to collect in California.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations refers to the time period in which a debt collector can legally sue a debtor for unpaid debts. In California, the statute of limitations for medical debt is four years from the date of service or the date of the last payment made on the account. After the statute of limitations has passed, the debt collector can no longer sue the patient for the unpaid debt. However, the debt may still appear on the patient’s credit report.
It’s important to note that making a partial payment or acknowledging the debt in any way can restart the clock on the statute of limitations. Additionally, if the patient moves out of state, the statute of limitations may be different, and the patient should consult with a legal professional for guidance.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that outlines the rules debt collectors must follow when collecting debts. The FDCPA applies to third-party debt collectors, but it does not apply to medical providers collecting their own debts.
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors cannot harass or mislead patients when attempting to collect a debt. They must identify themselves, provide accurate information about the debt, and provide patients with the opportunity to dispute the debt. Debt collectors are also prohibited from calling patients at inconvenient times, such as early in the morning or late at night.
California Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The California Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (RFDCPA) is a state law that provides additional protections to California consumers. The RFDCPA applies to both third-party debt collectors and original creditors.
Under the RFDCPA, debt collectors cannot use unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt. This includes threatening violence or using profane language when communicating with patients. Debt collectors must also provide patients with written notice of their rights under the law and give them the opportunity to dispute the debt.
In California, medical debt collectors have four years from the date of service or the date of the last payment made on the account to attempt to collect unpaid medical bills. Patients should be aware of their rights under the FDCPA and the RFDCPA, which provide additional protections against harassment and unfair debt collection practices. If patients are struggling to pay their medical bills, they should contact their medical provider or hospital to discuss payment options or seek assistance from a financial counselor.
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