I’m sorry, can you repeat that?

A collection agency contacted me today. This major disappointment came about 11 am, right about the time I found my mojo. I remember the all to familiar lines that bill collectors spill just before they proceed to annoy you with information you more than likely already know. “This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained on this call may be used expressly for that purpose…blah blah blah.”

This year has been expensive for our family as far as medical issues. I hate to admit they are mainly mine. In February I had some kind of attack where I was sure I must have had gall stones, or kidney stones, maybe even river stones, but it hurt! The trip we took to the emergency room revealed I had a “mild” case of diverticulitis. I was given antibiotics, pain killers, and an excuse to stay home from work for the next week. The bill that came along with it, after insurance, was roughly $1800, nice.

Normally, I tend to want to get my bill paying over with quickly. “Take it from savings! That’s what the emergency fund is for!” But we didn’t use our emergency bills for emergencies. We used it to pay bills over years and months because we didn’t budget. Karen shook her head because it wasn’t there, and I made payment arrangements for $104 per month and started to kill it with every extra dollar we had, but it didn’t die.

Today it sits at about $600 when my Indian friend called to inform me of his self incriminating recorded line. Then he lets me know that there’s an ADDITIONAL $1538.46 for “doctor’s services” much to my chagrin. Apparently ER facilities bill on one bill, while doctor’s services are invoiced on another. “Why do hospitals not include it all on one bill?” I ask. “Why am I just now hearing about this?” Apparently these are all questions for philosophers; for my foreign counterpart could not answer. I asked him to send me a statement via email and not to call me back between the hours of 8 am to 5 pm because he’s bugging me at work. He agreed, but not before asking me to make payment arrangements…I didn’t make payment arrangements.

billsI find there is a very primal emotion that comes about when I speak with people from collection agencies. It used to happen a lot, long before Karen and I were married. I think it may be a very natural reaction to be upset and defensive about bills a person can’t pay. There’s a very “fight or flight” mentality that comes with it. This heated reaction is exactly why I knew to get what information I could as quickly as I could and get off the phone. I’ve knowingly made payment arrangements for bills I knew couldn’t pay in the past. I wasn’t about to make another emotional decision.

After investigating, I found I do owe this bill, and I’ll pay it; but it won’t be because they backed me into a corner when I was upset about it. We can’t afford to pay it right now, “you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip,” someone once said (probably while talking to a bill collector). we have to take care of food, transportation, and housing, the basics. When a thousand dollars for emergencies  is saved in our account, this bill will be added to a debt snowball and it will be paid. Until then, I do not intend to speak to this collection agency again. Will it ruin my credit? Maybe, but right now I could care less. I don’t plan on using credit in the near future, or maybe ever. It’s not worth not taking care of my family now, and I would rather have the integrity of doing that AND paying a bill I owe, later.

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