Who Do I Throw My Money at Now?: An Adventure in Debt Collection

*The story you are about to read is true. The names have been divulged to expose the guilty*

I am convinced that debt collection agencies (and medical insurance companies for that matter) have only two requirements for hiring:

1) Must be a high school drop-out
2) Must have an IQ lower than that of soup

I know that some of you reading this have probably had bad experiences with medical insurance companies and probably with debt collection agencies. But it’s not likely that many of you have, like me, had trouble with both…simultaneously. Now let me preface by saying that we are not in the habit of falling behind on our bills. This was an absolute fluke, as you will see.

It’s like this: In the fall of 2005 I severely cut my right index finger (Long story short: I threw a brick that had a jagged edge and it cut me). Lyndsay took me to the local ER and I was there a few hours and got a tetanus shot and stitches. Well I waited and waited and finally I received a bill. Just to be sure I called the my insurance company to see if they had paid their part and to see how I should proceed. The lady on the phone was happy to announce to me that the whole amount had been covered. “Are you sure?” I asked suspiciously. Her friendly, upbeat response was “That’s what I show, It’s all taken care of, Mr. Horne.” I was still wondering but I took her word for it, hung up the phone, and went on with my life.

I did not hear a peep about this situation throughout 2006. Then in March 2007 I received a bill from OSI Collection Services seeking payment for ER service to my finger in 2005. I was of course surprised based on the conversation I had a whole year earlier with the friendly, upbeat insurance company lady. I called OSI and I explained to the lady there what the insurance lady had told me. Her reply was just shy of “so what”. Rather than argue this whole thing out I asked what I needed to do. She said I could either pay it all now or set up a payment plan. I opted for the payment plan, since I did not want to fork that much out all at once. She set me up on a six month payment plan that entailed my making once-a-month payments in an amount just south of $50. That was satisfactory. I hung up and wrote out a check for the first payment and sent it the next day. Well, then April rolls around. April 5th we received another debt collection notice…for the same service to my finger…from a different debt collection agency. I though to myself “huh??” Furthermore Lyndsay informed me at this time that OSI never cashed our check that we sent a month before.

LET THE FESTIVITIES BEGIN

I am usually a courteous customer wherever I go. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Some may say I am too nice. However I was just about upset on April 5, 2007. The gloves were about to come off. I called OSI first to find out what became of my payment. Of course they didn’t know. All they know is that they turned the account back over to the hospital, and the hospital must have turned it over to this new collection agency, NCO Financial Systems. Whaaa?

So I contacted NCO and spoke with…I’m not sure how to describe her. Let’s just say she fit the two requirements mentioned above to a T. She also had no idea why my account had belonged to OSI but now belonged to them. So that’s still an unsolved mystery (someone notify Robert Stack). So I asked, as I had done with the OSI lady, “what do I need to do now?” Her response was simple and to the point, “You need to pay this debt.” Thank you, Captain Obvious. So I probed further and asked if I can set up a payment plan (which I thought I had done with OSI). The NCO representative on the other end said “Yeah, we can just make the debt an even $200 and then you can pay half today and the other half before the end of the month.” I don’t get it, was I on Candid Camera or something? That’s about as helpful as a guy on death row requesting a stay of execution and the governor replies “No problem. We’ll just go ahead and strap ya into the chair but we’ll only throw the switch half way and then we’ll take her the rest of the way at the end of the month! How’s that sound??”

YOU NEED HOW MANY CHECKS?

Though I was losing patience, I managed to keep my Christian composure…sort of. I told her that we would go with her marvelous plan. She told me (and this is exactly what she said) that I’d need to send her two checks, one for that day and one post dated for April 26th. No problem. Make it so. Oh, and she informed me that for each payment there would be a $7 processing fee. Fine. She then says “Ok, now I need the routing number from the bottom of your check.” Shot who?

Me: Why do you need that?
NCO Lady: So we can take the payments out of your account.
Me: Why did you say I had to send two checks?
NCO Genius: You don’t, I just need your routing number and account number.
Me: The routing number is…..and the account number is….
NCO Weirdo: Now what’s the check number of the first check?
Me: 3737
NCO Person: *long pause as she does something* Ok, sir, just make sure you void the following check numbers: 3737, 3738, 3739, and 3740….
Me: whoa, whoa, whoa! Why am I voiding checks?
NCO High School Drop-out: So you won’t use those check numbers again.
Me: Okaaay…but why am I voiding 4 and not 2?
NCO Chick: I told you. Because there is a $7 fee on each payment.

At this point she was getting quite rude. Wait, no, she had been getting short with me the whole time.

Me: You mean, each fee has to be a separate check?
NCO Bureaucrat: Yes.
Me: So I am paying you two payments..with four checks…that I’ll never send?
NCO thing: Yes.

THE SAGA CONTINUES

April 16: The first payment has been made. I am ten days away from the second payment of my so-called installment plan. I receive a call that is actually a recording telling me to call NCO.*sigh*

I dial the number. I wait. I’m still waiting. Did I mention I’m waiting? Finally after about 20 minutes a human voice comes over the line. I explain the message I received. The lady (much more polite than the other lady mentioned above) says “It looks like you have one more payment to be made on the 26th, is that correct?” “Yes.” “Ok, we just needed to make sure. Have a great day!”

Huh?

Josh H.

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