Exactly two years ago today, on July 9th, 2007, I was at the hospital delivering fraternal twins via c-section. They were in no way related to me genetically, I was a surrogate mother.
This ties in to the drama I'm experiencing right now. I really didn't want to talk about it here, but today I realized that all you readers are a huge untapped resource for advice! I'd be stupid to waste the opportunity.
So here you are: Drama...
The parents of the twins I had two years ago are originally from Ghana, West Africa, but they live in London, England and own their own business.
They and I went through a surrogacy agency, called (then) Third Party Parenting Connections (TPPC), to set up our agreement, which was put into writing by lawyers and made all legal. Yippee. According to our contract, the parents were responsible for all medical bills incurred in the course of the pregnancy. They'd have to pay for anything not covered by my insurance. At the time, my health insurance did NOT cover any infertility treatment, including surrogate pregnancy, so the parents paid cash for everything.
As the pregnancy progressed, I developed gestational diabetes and had to see a specialist at Desert Perinatal Associates (DPA). At my first visit, I told the office staff there that my visits would be cash pay, that my insurance didn't cover them, but I was pooh-poohed and told that they'd already received prior authorization from my insurance. Okay then, whatever, I thought. I did have to fill out the typical paperwork, since I was the patient, stating I accepted financial responsibility, etc. They wouldn't have treated me otherwise.
At every subsequent visit, my portion of the bill (whatever DPA said was my coinsurance) was paid over the phone with a credit card, wielded by a nice lady named Amy who worked for Third Party Parenting Connections. Everything went smoothly, and as I said earlier, I had the babies at full-term, they were healthy, and everyone was happy.
A month or so later, I received a bill from Desert Perinatal Associates for $18,000. Seems my insurance company did, in fact, deny their claims. Since I was the patient who had filled out and signed paperwork, they came after me. I panicked a bit, but then faxed the bill, as I had done many times in the past with every other bill I'd received, to Third Party Parenting Connections.
Then came the collection calls and letters. WTF? Why wasn't it paid?! I forwarded those to TPPC as well. The calls and letters stopped and I heaved a sigh of relief.
Fast forward to a few months ago. I requested my three-in-one credit report, because I was concerned about my low credit score. I knew I'd probably have to co-sign some non-traditional loans for Silver's college, and wanted to find out what was going on and fix it.
I did find several errors in my report, including the collection from DPA, listed under "closed accounts" with a balance of almost $20,000 now! I disputed the collection, explaining that I had never been financially responsible for the charges. Two weeks or so later, I received a letter from the credit agency stating that their investigation revealed that not only was I responsible, the account was in fact still open!
I thought it was just a misunderstanding and called the collection agency involved the very next day to clear it up. BIG MISTAKE, CHRISTINA!!! The bill had in fact never been paid.
Seems I had somehow fallen through the cracks two years ago, and now that the collection agency was aware of me and of the open account, they were going to come after me with a vengeance.
I contacted Third Party Parenting Connections (now called Footsteps to Family), and was told that there was nothing they could do, their account with the parents and myself was closed, and they weren't responsible for anything. Darci, the owner, never returned my phone calls, she told me this in the lone email I got in response to my query. She never conceded that I had indeed faxed the original bill to the office, and Amy no longer worked for the company (coincidence?).
Last Friday I got a lovely letter from the collection agency stating that if the outstanding bill was not paid in full within ten days, a civil lawsuit might be filed against me. Oh, and the balance, due to accrued interest, was now up to $25,000.
The only contact info I have for the parents is a yahoo address that I'm not even sure they still use. I emailed them last Saturday and have gotten no reply. Understand that I'm fully aware that this is in no way their fault.
So. This is the clusterfuck I'm dealing with now. I used the Nevada State Bar Lawyer Referral Service (thanks, Ed!) and got the number of a lawyer who deals with stuff like this, but he hasn't called me back so I guess he's not interested in taking my case.
My office manager at the chiropractor's knows LOTS of local lawyers (go figure!), and she got on the phone and located another very good attorney who deals with contract law, but he wants $2,500 up front. Uh, NO! See, I'm not sure this is even the right way to go. A lawyer will want to go after the parents, but I'm not really interested in that. I honestly don't give a shit if the doctor gets paid. It was his office staff's fucking stupidity that created this mess in the first place. I want the collection agency to back off and I want the collection removed from my credit report.
So now I think I'm going to go to a credit counseling service (which is free) and lay the whole thing in front of them. There has to be a way to fix this. Doesn't the collection agency have to prove that I am indeed responsible? Yes, I signed paperwork, but I never paid a dime at that office, all they have records for are payments made by Amy, over the phone.
Well, my readers, do any of you have any bright ideas? THIS IS NOT A BLEG FOR MONEY, BY THE WAY. I know I put up the donation button, but honestly, I don't see myself shelling out thousands of dollars for an uncertain outcome, especially with the parents being in a foreign country. I'm sure the $2,500 would just be the beginning, and I don't want to go down that road.
I just want advice and ideas; consider this a brainstorming session.
Now you know why I've been so stressed lately, and why my blogging has been so lame. (What? It's ALWAYS lame?! Gee, thanks! ;))
Feel free to comment away. Thank you in advance for your advice, it's greatly appreciated.