Will a medical advocate help with a bill in collections?

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause/morguefile.com

Q. I am currently unemployed and my unemployment benefits will run out in two weeks. I still have outstanding medical bills, with one in collections. Can I use a medical advocate to resolve a bill that has been referred to a collection agency?

A. We’re sorry to hear you’re having a rough time of it, and we hope you’re able to find work soon.

A medical advocate, also called a patient advocate, may be helpful, but unfortunately, there are no guarantees.

“These services are not licensed and therefore there is no way to determine the legitimacy of the business or the knowledge of those who perform the services they offer,” said Allen Gillman, a consumer law attorney with offices in Edison and Cranbury.

And once a bill is in collections, a collection firm won’t treat it any differently if it’s a medical bill or a credit card bill or whatever.

Gillman said people with serious debt issues should seek the advice of an attorney. You can search for one that offers reduced fees through your county’s lawyer referral service.

Gillman said working with an attorney can be very beneficial to make sure your rights are not violated.

“As far as debt collectors are concerned, they are extensively regulated under the Fair Debt Collection Practices and debt collectors are prohibited from contacting anyone represented by an attorney,” he said.

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This story was first posted in December 2014.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.