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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Default Can You be Billed for a Dental Procedure After Seven Years

    My question involves collection proceedings in the State of: Pennsylvania (dental procedure conducted) & New Jersey (where I live).


    Hello all,

    In short, I had a dental procedure done in January 2010 (the last time there was action on the billing account was on November 2010). It has been exactly 7 years and 3 months since I've had this dental procedure (I was 19 years old at the time). I got a random phone call the other day from a debt collector stating that I have an outstanding balance on this medical bill. Being that it was so long ago, I was obviously in shock and had no clue what she was talking about. At the time I was young and didn't have a job nor did I have my own dental insurance - I was on both my mother's and father's for medical and dental.

    The lady calling me said that she was hired by that dental office to sort through old outstanding bills from their office. Not taking any fraud chances, I immediately called the office where I had my dental procedure done (not my current dentist). The receptionist there looked up the information for me and found that I did in fact owe $135 and some odd cents. She told me they've been trying to contact me over the years - when I promptly stated that I've never ever received any calls or postage from them and that simply was not true.

    Well today I actually received a bill in the mail for the stated amount. The bill has no due date on it or anything, just the procedure billing dates, costs, and descriptions.

    Today, I'm almost 27 years old, have my own job with own medical insurances. My parents had switched jobs and have totally different insurances than they had that many years ago.

    My main question is... should I pay this $135 outstanding bill? Do I actually owe that to them after this many years after not hearing a peep out of them for so long? Is there something called a Statue of Limitations involved? Why after all these years wasn't the bill tossed over to a Collection Agency, if it was in fact that serious? Can this still destroy my credit if not paid? I'm not even sure if it has anything to do with MY credit per say (maybe my parents since it was not my insurance?)?

    Can anyone offer me any advice?

    Thanks and I do appreciate it very much!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    627

    Default Re: Can You be Billed for a Dental Procedure After Seven Years

    Quote Quoting safguy
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    My main question is... should I pay this $135 outstanding bill? Do I actually owe that to them after this many years after not hearing a peep out of them for so long? Is there something called a Statue of Limitations involved? Why after all these years wasn't the bill tossed over to a Collection Agency, if it was in fact that serious? Can this still destroy my credit if not paid? I'm not even sure if it has anything to do with MY credit per say (maybe my parents since it was not my insurance?)?

    Can anyone offer me any advice?

    Thanks and I do appreciate it very much!
    Well, as Judge Judy is fond of saying "you ate the steak, you owe the money".

    Do you deny that the original bill is yours? Of course if it's not work that you had done then you shouldn't pay it.

    This bill could be the amount owed after ins paid their share.

    If the SOL has expired, you still owe the money but they can't take you to court over it. But when did you leave PA.? If you leave the state of the original debt the SOL may stop ticking, so that may be a dead end to you.

    How much has the debt grown above the original $135?

    Morally speaking if it was work you had done and you agree with the original amount then you could just pay it and be done and feel good about doing the right thing. If you want to try and avoid the debt then you'll need to find out if the SOL defense will still work for you after leaving the state.

    Even if you are able to use the SOL as a defense that only means they can't win a court case against you as long as you respond to the court and raise the SOL defense(if still valid). If you get sued and just ignore it then you will probably get a default judgement against you and then you have to deal with that.

    Others will probably post later with more details about the SOL for PA and if you stopped the clock on that by leaving the state.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Can You be Billed for a Dental Procedure After Seven Years

    Thanks for your quick response!

    Well it's not the fact that I "left" the state - as I've never lived there in the first place. I've always lived in NJ. I just have the procedure done in PA.

    I mean it's not too large a sum of money, so I don't mind paying it (if it was $500+ that would be something different), no interest or anything was accrued. I was just curious that after all these years they decide to now randomly contact me regarding this bill. I'd rather not make this into a huge deal with a lawyer and all for 135 bucks - as it wouldn't be worth it.

    I was also wondering if I just ignored the bill what would happen... I don't think it's attached to my credit (as they don't have my SS#, etc) and since it's been so long...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    6,992

    Default Re: Can You be Billed for a Dental Procedure After Seven Years

    The statute of limitation on collecting a debt on a contract is 6 years in NJ. That just means that they can't sue you in court for the money. If they sell the debt to a junk debt collector, that could lead to lots of calls and harassment to collect it. And it could be reported to the credit companies and you would have to dispute the reporting to get it removed.

    I would call the dentist and offer to pay say $95 to settle it. If they agree, ask them to send you a letter stating the agreement (for whatever amount you agree to). Don't pay if you don't get it in writing.

  5. #5
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    Apr 2017
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    4

    Default Re: Can You be Billed for a Dental Procedure After Seven Years

    Quote Quoting budwad
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    The statute of limitation on collecting a debt on a contract is 6 years in NJ. That just means that they can't sue you in court for the money. If they sell the debt to a junk debt collector, that could lead to lots of calls and harassment to collect it. And it could be reported to the credit companies and you would have to dispute the reporting to get it removed.

    I would call the dentist and offer to pay say $95 to settle it. If they agree, ask them to send you a letter stating the agreement (for whatever amount you agree to). Don't pay if you don't get it in writing.
    Thanks, budwad.

    I like your idea of negotiating with them and definitely getting a new billing statement. Do you think they would actually proceed? I mean it doesn't hurt to try. Do they usually do stuff like this for really old debt?

  6. #6
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    Nov 2013
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    6,992

    Default Re: Can You be Billed for a Dental Procedure After Seven Years

    If they sell the debt to a junk buyer, they will get pennies on the dollar and they know it. So they should be receptive to any reasonable offer.

    Even CC companies will settle on a percentage of the debt so they don't have to sue. Try it. You have nothing to lose.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can You be Billed for a Dental Procedure After Seven Years

    Quote Quoting safguy
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    I like your idea of negotiating with them and definitely getting a new billing statement. Do you think they would actually proceed? I mean it doesn't hurt to try. Do they usually do stuff like this for really old debt?
    The debt, being more than seven years old, should not appear on your credit report even if sent to collections.

    If you want to make an offer to settle the bill, that's certainly your right -- but we can't tell you what that dentist office's practices or policies will be in relation to bills. It's up to them, and they (and their biller) may not have much understanding of the law. If you make an offer that they accept, you should get written confirmation that your payment will be accepted as payment in full before sending a check. If you cannot reach an agreement, you have the option of not paying them anything -- their options are constrained by the passage of time and the small amount of money involved.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    4

    Default Re: Can You be Billed for a Dental Procedure After Seven Years

    So I gave them a call back and I offered to pay them 60% of the bill to settle the 7 1/2 year old debt - they declined the offer. They claimed it was too small of a debt to bargain, even though it exceeds the 4 year statue of limitations.

    Any advice about where I go now? Should I just bite the bullet and pay up the small amount of $135? I honestly don't want this small of debt to be attached to me wherever I go (however, I'm not even certain it's attached to my social security number). What would you do?

    Thanks in advance!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can You be Billed for a Dental Procedure After Seven Years

    Your decision of whether or not to pay the bill is a personal decision, not a legal decision. From what you have stated, the debt cannot be lawfully reported on your credit and cannot be successfully enforced through the courts if they attempt to sue you (which they would exceedingly unlikely to do over a debt that size even if the claim weren't time-barred).

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