Medical bills you incur aren't secured by your property and thus your creditors cannot seize your car, home or other assets should you fail to pay what you owe. They can, however, send you to collections. Debt collectors in Pennsylvania must adhere to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in addition to the Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (FCEUA).
When attempting to collect a medical debt, the FDCPA and the FCEUA state that a creditor cannot harass you, threaten you or reveal your debt to others. While the FDCPA refers only to third party creditors, the FCEUA places these restrictions on original creditors for all debts, including medical bills.
Pennsylvania law allows third party collection agencies and original creditors to file a lawsuit for unpaid medical bills. The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in Pennsylvania for unpaid unsecured debt is four years. After this time passes, you may contest any lawsuit filed by a medical creditor on the grounds the original debt is time-barred.
If your creditor wins a lawsuit, it may not use wage garnishment as a collection tool. Pennsylvania courts only allow wage garnishment for certain debts such as taxes and child support. The creditor may, however, garnish funds from your bank account to cover outstanding medical bills.
- Tom Corbitt Pennsylvania Attorney General: Fair Debt Collection Practices
- Katz Law Office: Statutes Affecting Collection Practices
- BCSAlliance.com: State Statutes of Limitation on Debt Collection
- Credit Attorney Greg Artim: Pennsylvania Garnishment Law FAQs
- Federal Trade Commission: The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
- FamiliesUSA: A Pound of Flesh – Hospital Billing, Debt Collection and Patient's Rights