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Debt collection is a serious concern for older Americans

Written by Diane Archer

Debt collection has become a big business, with 30 million Americans (14.6 percent) having at least one debt in collection. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, older Americans complain most about debt collection. The types of complaints range from the lack of information about the debts being collected, to attempts to collect debts from the wrong person, to misleading and coercive letters.

Debt collection represents about one-third of the complaints (34 percent) received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from older adults. Mortgages represent almost one-fourth of complaints (23 percent).

About half of older Americans are incensed by ongoing attempts to collect a debt that they do not owe. Often they have the same name as the person who owes the debt, and they struggle to get the collection agency to understand that and stop pursuing them. Medical debt is a big source of complaints. Often insurers are responsible for the bill, but the collection agency still goes after the older adult for the funds. And, this can affect the credit reports of older Americans, who often are not aware that their account has been put in collection.

If a collection agency is going after you for a debt that you do not owe, report the agency to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  You can file a complaint online. The agency will follow up on your behalf.

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  • I was a Naval officer who resigned to protest the Vietnam war (no retirement) and have been a justice-peace-environment activist ever since. I’ve been struggling for full socialized medicine since I resigned in 1969, because my health thrived on it in the Navy, My parents never cared for Medicare since it always had to be supplemented privately. Today I turned 79 and I want to know why you turn folks away from Medicare Advantage! For me it’s been a literal life saver AND huge money saver. Of course my first choice is still IMPROVED Medicare for All, but I have been so badly robbed by 80%-20% plans I have found local and regional HMOs, now Medicare Advantage plans, to be a reasonable alternative–cost saving and health-promoting. Under my current one, Health Partners PA, I get generic meds free–and generics are what I want, since I used to work in Pharma and distrust any monopolies and oligarchies. One must read the HMO rules, but I have been able to keep my doctor after retirement, practically every hospital in this city is covered, and efforts go into health prevention. I hope you’re not being paid off by the smelly old-style pharma & Blue Cross companies. Give us the advantages of the Advantage HMOs! There are so many.

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