In the State of Wisconsin can you go to jail for not paying a medical bill?
I have a medical bill for $192 and have no means of paying it right now, but Im concerned, could I go to jail for failing to pay it?
- We stopped jailing people for debt a long time ago. An unpaid debt can damage your credit rating (which is probably crap anyway), and under some circumstances they can garnish your pay or whatever. But you won't go to jail.30
- No such thing as debtors jail ... anymore.00
- No and yes. You cannot be jailed for the debt itself. But if they sue you and win and then you don't pay you can go to jail for contempt of court. Also if you are sued there could be additional fees that you may have to pay such as court cost and maybe the other parties lawyers fees.00
- In the US, you can't face criminal charges for not being able to pay a debt.
If you a able to pay, but refuse, it is possible that could become a crime.
Note: I recommend you TALK to the business office of whoever you owe. They can often help put you in touch with any programs that may be available to help with your medical costs.00
- Call the office and speak to the office manager for the practice.
they have the authority to discount the bill, as well as to accept time payments- which you must keep up. if you just leave it unpaid, they will add interest and after a couple of months, it will be sent to a collection agency.
Don't let it hang. Go directly to them right away and let them know you don't have it right now, but offer to make payments and do it. You received the medical attention, and they will work with you. Even a small bill on your credit history will have larger consequences.10
- No. There is no debtor's prison any more.
The doctor will most probably pass on the debt to a collection agency. It's not worth his time going to small claims court.
But if he does sue in the small claims court, and you don't put in a defence, then usually there won't be a hearing. The registrar of the court will just record it as a summary judgement. You have to actually file a defence for there to be a hearing.
Whether or not there's a hearing, a judgement in the doctor's favour creates a judgement debt. The judgement debt is NOT a court order, and failure to pay is NOT contempt of court. So you don't go to jail.
Having acquired a judgement debt, the doctor has several ways to collect it. He may garnishee your wages or your bank account. To do this he applies to the court again and gets a court order against your employer or your bank. If he garnishees your bank account, the bank is ordered to take any money in your account and pay it to him (the doctor) until the debt is payed. If he garnishees your employer then the employer is ordered to take money from your wages until the debt is payed, but he can only garnish 20% of your take-home pay (in Wisconsin; other states are different).
Other ways to collect are to put a lien on your real property (your house) though this is uncommon. Or they may send the sheriff round to your home to seize any personal property you hold to the value of the debt. It is then sold in the local sheriff's auction.
But for a debt of this size wage or bank account garnishee is the usual method of debt collection. In the case of a summary judgement it's not usual to even let you know of the judgement until the garnishee starts to operate. The usual sequence of events is:
1) Plaintiff (in this case the doctor) issues a statement of claim and has this served on you.
2) You ignore it, and don't file a defence.
3) The plaintiff applies to the court for summary judgement with the statement of claim and the affadavit of service (proof that you got the statement of claim). He does NOT have to tell you he's doing this.
4) The court grants a summary judgement and sends a record of the judgement to the plaintiff. He does not have to tell you.
5) The plaintiff then applies to the court for a garnishee order. This is granted summarily. You do NOT have to be informed.
6) The first thing you know about it (after the statement of claim which you so foolishly ignored) is money disappearing from your bank account or from your wages.10
- As a general rule, that after 90 days and no payment has been made in most doctors/hospitals will automatically send this bill to collection.
But it is common that many people are unable to pay the entire bill at one time, thus you can ask if they will discount it to you, or can make payments on it, but I was in contact with hospitals with big amounts owed, not $192, then they will either let you pay it off for a max of 6 months, but for $192, my guess then only for 3. So, if you divide $192 by 3 = $64 each month. $64 divided by 4 weeks in a month is only $16 per week, surely you can pay that amount.20
- No you will not go to jail for debt no matter how much the debt it. You could be sued for the money but $192 is not enough to justify the cost a law suit. Try and make arrangements with the medical group to make payments and if that doesn't work, as others have said, they'll probably send the debt to a collection agency. Those guys will just continue to call you as much as they can without being "harassing" (which is quite a bit) to get you to pay.10
- No you cannot, anywhere in the US.10
- No, no jail. But there is civil recourse they can take against you.00
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