NPR’s Medical Bill of the Month: Debt Collector Sends Medical Data to the Wrong Consumer

Each month, NPR broadcasts a story, “Bill of the Month,” about a medical billing issue. In this month’s, a hospital confused two patients who have the same first and last names (their middle initials are different, but that didn’t prevent the mistake) and sent a bill to the wrong one. Eventually, a debt collector dunned the wrong consumer. My guess is she then disputed the debt because the debt collector sent her the medical information of the patient who had actually received medical care, presumably in an effort to verify the debt. Of course, that shouldn’t meet the validation requirements (though I wonder if a court would agree) and it also resulted in private information being shared with another person. I think there’s also a pretty good argument that the collector violated 1692c’s prohibition on communicating with a third party, though maybe it would be able to avoid liability by using the bona fide error defense.

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