By Daniel Ohiri
Let me begin with a story. During my entire summer break, every Thursday at 3:00 pm I’d get a call. Each time the call would devolve into shouting matches and veiled threats. Who was calling me? A debt collector by the name of Medical Revenue Service (MRS). This firm has a negative history of buying old hospital debt, harassing consumers daily, and making threats. MRS had been calling me about an old GW Hospital bill that I had received during last semester. Without going into specifics, I was in dispute with GW Hospital and my insurance company over the cost of this bill. During the time of that dispute, GW Hospital sold my debt, probably for pennies on the dollar, to MRS.
There is a debate within the world of consumer financial protection as to whether selling debt to third-party firms is in the best interest of the consumer. Looking past that debate, we can acknowledge that our current system allows for the existence of third-party debt collectors and promotes their ability to buy debt. Therefore, I believe we should be able to agree that this industry needs to be regulated.
MRS would call me weekly trying to flip the debt they had bought from the hospital. Now, as a general rule, I tend not to give my debit card information to third-party firms of any type. Instead, I moved to deal with the bill through the GW Hospital billing department. After the dispute between the hospital and my insurance had ended and the debt had been settled, MRS continued making their weekly calls, becoming more and more aggressive.
Even though my insurance and I had jointly paid GW Hospital directly, the MRS collector continued to call and verbally abuse me: she didn’t believe that my debts had been paid. She relied on her “gut” and not the record, commenting, “people like you don’t pay bills, I don’t believe you paid anything.” After that, I requested to have my name taken off their call list and I blocked their number. I wondered how and why a debt collection agency could be so unprofessional. I did some research on MRS and found that their holding company was Medical Data Systems (MDS). I found that MDS houses its collection agencies in Florida and Alabama—states with lax regulations on debt collection. Florida doesn’t require background checks or even force debt collectors to register with the state. Alabama also doesn’t require background checks for debt collectors. I was being harassed by people that were not accountable to public authority. They weren’t even accountable to GW Hospital. Their only focus was to turn a profit on a debt that they had bought. This needs to change. Actions need to be taken on the statewide level to better regulate this industry.
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