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FCC limits cellphone calls about unpaid medical bills

Medical debt often inflicts financial hardship on Kentucky households. Because of aggressive tactics by the collection industry, the Federal Communications Commission has issued a ruling curtailing robo-calls from collection agencies directed at cellphone numbers. According to the FCC, a cellphone number can only be called by a collections company if the debtor has granted permission to be contacted by that number for billing issues.

Violations of the rule could result in a $1,500 fine per incident against the collections company. Consumer advocates had criticized collections via cellphone because when debtors change their phone numbers, their old numbers might go into use for other people. This caused collectors to be calling the wrong people. Fines will likely only occur when a erroneously targeted consumer files a complaint with the FCC.

An attorney from the National Consumer Law Center anticipates that the new regulation will reduce robo-calling practices by the collection industry. Billions of dollars in unpaid medical bills, however, remain to motivate collectors to contact debtors. Data published by NerdWallet showed that in 2012 medical debts totaled $21 billion, triple the amount of the debts generated by bank loans and credit cards combined.

A person looking for a way to manage medical debt might choose to discuss debt relief alternatives with an attorney. After evaluating the person's financial situation, the attorney might recommend bankruptcy as a viable option. Filing for bankruptcy can put at least a temporary halt to collection activities, and in some cases, the successful completion of a Chapter 7 proceeding can result in a discharge of some or all of a person's unpaid medical obligations.

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