July 31, 2018

How long does a doctor's office have to send you a bill?

Dear Consumer Ed:

How long does a doctor’s office have to send you a bill? One arrived from a doctor two years after the appointment.

Consumer Ed says:

Provided that you were not an inpatient in a hospital or long-term care facility, the law treats the bill like any other debt or payment owed for services. If you executed a written agreement to pay at the time of the appointment, the doctor’s office probably has up to six years from the date of the appointment to collect. If there was no written agreement, the doctor’s office may have up to four years to collect. Either way, the doctor’s office may well be within the acceptable timeframe to collect.

That having been said, your question does not address whether you have health insurance or whether this doctor agreed to accept and submit your insurance. If the doctor’s office was, in fact, a participating or “in-network” provider through your insurance company, the doctor’s office may have violated the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act if either of the following scenarios occurred:

  1. It failed to timely submit a claim to your insurance provider, resulting in the insurance company denying the claim and leaving you liable for the full amount; or
  2. It told you it accepted your insurance but proceeded to charge you an amount that exceeded the contracted rate set forth by the insurance company.

If you believe the doctor’s office may have violated the law, you should submit a complaint to the Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division by calling (404) 651-8600.

Submit your own question to Consumer Ed. Remember…we do not give legal advice. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.