Let me tell you a story (forgive any grammatical errors, I'm not in the mood to edit atm). It spans 7 years involving 2 medical things, a car accident/emergency room visit and a heart condition.
Way back in 2007 I got into a car accident, rear-ended a truck driven by an underage/undocumented Hispanic driver who slammed on their brakes 100 yards after exiting a stoplight (so reckless driving but disappeared from the emergency room so the police didn't get a statement and the owner of the truck "didn't know who was driving it"). I went to court and since my statement was the only one I was able to plead no contest and differed the following too closely charge after 90 days. Shitty part is due to the driver disappearing and the plea of no contest the trucks insurance didn't feel they had to pay my bills for the ambulance/ER visit. Even shittier during the process of trying to get their insurance to pay it the hospital and ambulance (separate entities in my town) had taken me to collections, 45 days after the first bill so basically way too quick in my opinion. But whatever, I started making payments to the collection agency for the $1500ish total from the 2 bills. Over a couple years I got it down to about halfway paid off.
Then nearly 2 years later I developed a pain in my back, never stopped, just a dull throb 24/7. Went to the clinic, was told it was probably pericarditis (inflammation of the fluid sack around the heard). Unfortunately it can be caused by any number of viruses, bacteria, etc... SOO they had to run tests. A Chest X-Ray, blood tests and ECG later the X-Ray revealed there was inflammation but the blood test didn't reveal anything and the ECG showed normal rhythm and an Echocardiogram was in order (2 weeks from then because no one on staff could run the damn thing so someone from a hospital 2 hours west visited twice a month). All these tests later and they never found out anything, I'm assuming because I never got the results of the Echocardiogram and when I called they were still waiting for results from the tech up west.
A month later I get a large bill for all the tests, over $2000. I had insurance at the time and was wondering why none of it was applied to my deductible, so I asked, and the person I spoke to wasn't sure but they were going to look into it. Week later a letter from the hospital on bright orange paper came telling me they sent those bills off to the same collection agency and it would be added onto the existing balance. I was obviously pissed but the easiest way out of it was obviously keep making payments, it was just going to take a lot longer. When I argued the collection agency told me to talk to the hospital about the tests not going towards my deductible, and when I went to the hospital they immediately said "it's in collections, there's nothing we can do". I was 22 and only making $15K a year after taxes, I couldn't get a lawyer obviously so I just kept paying what I could per month.
Not long after that the bills stopped coming, after a few months I tried to call the agency but the line was disconnected and I learned a year or so later that they closed and all the debts they held were sold to someone. Who now held my debt was a mystery to me, I hadn't received anything in the mail. If they called the house during business hours they would have only talked to my dad and he never mentioned to me that anyone called about a collection. How am I supposed to pay something when I don't know who to pay? Fast forward to Thanksgiving on Thursday and my mom stops by to drop her dogs off so we could watch them why she went to her sisters for the holiday and she gives me a letter that she got earlier in the week for me. I open it to find a law firm trying to collect the debts, now with 5 years of interest that the other company wasn't applying to it. It's now nearly double, close to $5k owed and they're threatening to get a judgement on it soon if it's not taken care of.
I DIDN'T KNOW WHO TO PAY, IT'D BE PAID OFF BY NOW IF THEY HAD JUST MAILED SOMETHING 5 YEARS AGO! I don't know what to do, I certainly can't afford $5k. I might be screwed.