After paying for a medical service at the time of service, can a provider later claim they made a error and bill you more?

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After paying for a medical service at the time of service, can a provider later claim they made a error and bill you more?

We received medical service for casting a fracture over 1 1/2 years ago. We paid $200 at the time of service and received a 5% discount for paying at the time of service. Later they sent a bill claiming that we were billed wrong at the time of service and we owe $500 more. We contested the bill at the time. But they insist we owe the revised bill. They continued to send us billing statements monthly. Now they are planning to sent the bill to a collection service. So do we legally owe what they claim? And con they send it to a collection agency.

Asked on March 12, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

They may be able to do this. There are two very different types of billing errors:

1) The vendor or service provider either had a "typographic" error or a mathematical error--maybe they forgot to include a service you received on the bill, or maybe they added totals up incorrectly, but in any event, the problem is they failed  to bill you for amounts which you owe and should have paid, for services which you received. When this is the case, they can correct the bill and look to recover the correct amount of money.

2) The service provider realizes that it had quoted you a lower price than it "should have"--for example, maybe it offered you a discount when it did not need to. When this is the case, it is bound to the number it agreed to--it cannot go back and charge you more than you had agreed to pay or change the terms under which it provided service.

So an error of type 1, when there is no doubt but that you received the services and should have been charged, but were not due to some administrative or mathematical mistake, is an error they can look to correct later. If this was the type of error and you do not pay, they can refer you to collections or take legal action.


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