Truth In Lending Act a.k.a. TILA
Because you’re like me the Truth In Lending Act (TILA) and medical billing seem like two polar opposites. I found out differently because of open heart surgery in 2006. Which can happen to seniors and pre-senes alike.
When you enter the hospital to have a procedure one of the first stops is the admitting office. And it’s in this office you and a foot tall stack of forms meet. And, one of those forms is usually titled: Federal Truth In Lending Initial Disclosure.
Oddly you can click the image above to enlarge it. For those of us whom are unaware the Truth in Lending Act or TILA, 15 U.S.C. 1601 et seq., was enacted on May 29, 1968. It’s enacted as title I of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (Pub. L. 90-321). Feel free to ignore the legal mumbo jumbo. Because knowing it is the law is more than sufficient for our purposes here.
The Truth In Lending Act states you as a patient have certain rights. You have to be told everything about the cost of doing business with that particular institution. See, you are actually getting a loan from them.
For this article’s purpose we’ll assume you didn’t know that. And, neither did I until that fateful morning. And, it’s not assuming in my case.
The paragraph referred to as et seq. above, states:
First, we’ll define “material disclosures”, then we’ll talk about the form.
Material disclosures are the disclosures of the annual percentage rate, the method of determining the finance charge and the balance upon which a finance charge will be imposed. It goes on to include the amount of the finance charge, the amount to be financed, the total of payments, the number and amount of payments, the due dates or periods of payments scheduled to repay the indebtedness. As well as the disclosures required by section 129(a) too.
Please click on the smaller image above. Because you want to follow along with us. It will open a larger image. Inside this larger image you will find underlined sentences. And, the underlined phrases are my doing. Notice the underlined phrase “balance upon which a finance charge will be imposed”. Also take the time to notice “the amount to be financed”. These phrases lead a person to believe they will see numbers on their disclosure.
My disclosure did not contain any amount in numbers. Only the words “unpaid balance”. No amount appeared in dollars either. Only the words “unpaid balance”. My disclosure is 3 pages long. But, I only posted the first page. At the top of this article. So, you can see how they addressed these 2 phrases.
How the Truth in Lending Act Was Violated, in My Opinion
It is my opinion they violated the spirit and intent of TILA. And, I did not complain or file any formal grievance. Because I had excellent health insurance coverage at the time. In fact, I keep my out of pocket expenses to myself. Because they were so low I am embarrassed to tell them. Thank you, United States Air Force.
Besides, what I paid is immaterial. It is what you will be charged and expected to pay. My humble opinion tells me absent the actual figures and posted prices (TILA says prices must be posted) these institutions can get away with literal robbery.
A Relatable, Real Life Example
Think of buying a car. The price is posted. And if you wrangle a lower price that number shows up on the contract. If you have to finance that amount there is no guess work as to the amount financed. And the interest rate you will be charged.
This is not what the institutions do. They don’t put a price on the form. But they do tell you the interest rate you will be charged. As you will see. Just to be clear, so we’re on the same page. You don’t know the amount of your charges, but you know the interest rate..
Unpaid balance means diddly squat. Because letters aren’t numbers. You don’t know the price of the procedure(s) before you sign the form. To me, because of this, they violated the spirit and intent of the Truth In Lending Act.
**DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer and I don’t play one on television but I believe you have a good legal argument should you contest the charges**
By the way, all disclosure forms must tell you have a right to contest the charges and a right to ask for financial assistance. If you are uninsured or underinsured it is in your best interest to ask for financial assistance.
Make sure you read the form. Make sure you understand the form. If you have any questions ask them BEFORE you sign the form. Because once you sign the form, you are legally bound.
You can also cross out any paragraph you oppose. On my form I crossed out and initialed the paragraph titled: Consent to Use of Information. It was written in broad terms almost giving away all of my privacy.
Let me repeat myself. Before you do anything else, make sure you read this form. Most importantly, understand this form and ask questions before you sign this form. Above all, it is that important.
Rather than try to list all of the considerations the advice is to schedule an appointment with a SS rep at your local SS office. Or, in the alternative, visit https://ssa.gov and do an online search.
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