Frank VanderSloot Speaks to Idaho Legislators About Medical Debt Reform
Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot presented to roughly 50 legislators who came to Melaleuca Global Headquarters on Oct. 14, 2019. They attended as part of a legislative tour organized by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, and Melaleuca happened to be one of the stops during their two-day event. During his presentation, Frank outlined the overall issues and identified several legislative solutions.
Frank & Belinda VanderSloot Increase Donation to $1 Million to Protect Idaho Families From Unscrupulous Tactics by Medical Debt Collectors
Idaho Medical Debt Fund Takes on 140 legal Cases
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Oct. 10, 2019 – Frank and Belinda VanderSloot announced a second donation of $500,000 today to a consumer protection fund that defends Idaho citizens from overly aggressive medical debt collectors and attorneys who appear to use unscrupulous tactics.
The couple introduced this legal defense fund called Idaho Medical Debt on April 25, 2019, before funding it with their first $500,000 donation. The VanderSloots specifically established this fund for individuals who have been charged excessive attorney fees in collections. Today’s donation brings the VanderSloots’ personal contributions to $1 million.
In addition to providing funding to defend Idahoans from the ruthless tactics used by medical debt collectors, the VanderSloots will call upon the Idaho legislature to pass meaningful legislation that protects Idaho’s citizens from a variety of unsavory practices related to medical debt. To complement these important legislative efforts, they anticipate donating additional money to lead a strong consumer advocacy and education campaign throughout the state.
Reassuring the healthcare community, Frank VanderSloot emphasizes this fund will not prevent doctors or hospitals from being paid in full.
“We want to make clear that doctors and hospitals deserve to be paid for their services,” Frank said. “Doctors and hospitals have the right and the need to collect for services rendered. We will not be helping people avoid paying legitimate bills. But we are defending people from unscrupulous, unreasonable, or unnecessary attorney fees.”
Over the last five months, attorneys working with the legal defense fund have not slowed down. The fund has been contacted by more than 483 individuals and provided hundreds of one-on-one consultations. Currently, Idaho Medical Debt, funded by the VanderSloots, has agreed to legally defend 140 families from unscrupulous collection tactics and unreasonable attorney fees.
Due to the large number of individuals seeking help from the fund, the VanderSloots have announced a second donation of an additional $500,000 to the fund. They are committed to this effort and will continue to provide a legal defense for those who are being treated unfairly by unscrupulous collection agencies and their attorneys.
Nearly all of these cases involve Medical Recovery Services (MRS), an Idaho Falls-based collection agency specializing in medical debt. Notably, MRS employs the firm of Smith, Driscoll & Associates (SDA), which is owned and operated by the same people who own MRS. In other words, it appears that they essentially employ themselves to do the legal work for their own collection agency.
After hearing hundreds of heart-wrenching stories, Idaho Medical Debt attorneys have noted patterns of behavior that are reported repeatedly by victims of their aggressive collection tactics. Idaho Medical Debt believes some of these activities are illegal.
- MRS telling people it is not necessary for them to show up in court, then obtaining default judgments against these people;
- MRS telling people not to get an attorney because it will end up costing them more if they try to defend themselves;
- MRS refusing to provide documentation as to what the medical debt was, in other words not being able to document there was an actual bill in the first place.
- MRS making misstatements regarding the nature of the litigation, including calling complaints that have been filed “judgments”;
- MRS making misstatements regarding the court, including that the court requires strict deadlines for repayment when the court has no such deadlines;
- MRS refusing to back down from a lawsuit where the medical provider made a mistake (e.g., sending a bill by mistake) because SDA-MRS want to collect attorney fees;
- MRS collecting on discharged or already satisfied debts.
- MRS charging victims a fee every time they make a payment—resulting in a never-ending cycle of fees; and
Over the last few months, Frank and attorneys have been researching and drafting legislation that protects Idahoans from unscrupulous attorneys in the medical debt collection process. Frank plans on raising the issue with legislators next week and asking them to do the right thing for the citizens of Idaho.
The VanderSloots were inspired to create this new fund after MRS sought to collect over $6,000 in legal fees from one of Melaleuca’s employees based on a $294 medical expense.
After the employee’s disturbing case was reported in the media, hundreds of people came forward with similarly shocking stories about their experiences with MRS and its attorneys.
The VanderSloots made their decision after reading an investigative news series on EastIdahoNews.com that describes how SDA-MRS routinely balloons small debts into thousands of dollars by tacking on exorbitant attorney fees and questionable expenses that other debt collectors do not.
Anyone with medical bills who is treated unfairly by any collection company from southeast Idaho is a candidate for this protection. They can confidentially call Idaho Medical Debt at 208-534-2208, email email@example.com or post publicly on the Idaho Medical Debt Facebook page to seek assistance.
VANDERSLOOTS CREATE $500,000 FUND TO DEFEND IDAHOANS AGAINST EXCESSIVE TACTICS BY IDAHO FALLS MEDICAL DEBT COLLECTORS
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (April 25, 2019) Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot and his wife, Belinda, announced today that they are establishing a fund to defend east Idahoans from tactics used by overly aggressive medical debt collectors. Specifically, the VanderSloots established a $500,000 consumer protection fund for individuals who have been charged excessive attorney fees, and they call for updating Idaho laws to protect citizens from unscrupulous practices. The VanderSloots were inspired to create this new fund after Medical Recovery Services (MRS), an Idaho Falls-based collection agency specializing in medical debt, billed one of Frank’s employees $5,864.25 in legal fees and costs on a now-paid $294 medical expense.
After the employee’s disturbing case was reported in the media, dozens of people came forward with similarly shocking stories about their experiences with MRS and its attorneys, Bryan Smith and Bryan Zollinger of Idaho Falls. The VanderSloots made their decision after reading an investigative four-part series on EastIdahoNews.com that describes how MRS routinely balloons small debts into thousands of dollars by tacking on exorbitant attorney fees and questionable expenses that other debt collectors do not.
VanderSloot provided the letter below that explains how they arrived at the decision to establish this fund.
Today, Belinda and I are establishing a $500,000 fund to protect East Idaho citizens from attorneys who appear to be using unscrupulous methods to take small debts of a few hundred dollars and transform them into huge debts of thousands of dollars by adding outlandish attorney fees.
This “scheme” has evidently been operating in East Idaho for some time. Idaho Falls attorneys Bryan Smith and Bryan Zollinger operate MRS, a collection agency specializing in medical debt. MRS employs the firm of Smith Driscoll and Associates which is also run by Mr. Smith and Mr. Zollinger. In other words, they essentially employ themselves to do the legal work for their own collection agency. Local doctors and hospitals employ MRS to collect past-due medical bills. These bills are often several years old. Sometimes the patient doesn’t even know there is still money owed.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Zollinger appear to be very sloppy in their work. Bills are sometimes sent to wrong names or wrong addresses. At first glance this might seem like just incompetence or carelessness. But when you look more closely, they appear to benefit from their own sloppiness. When they make a mistake, they have been known to charge the unsuspecting patients for attorney fees for the time it took to correct their own mistakes. In addition, they appear to bill for even tiny transactions. For example, when a patient makes a payment, they have been known to tack on another fee for simply processing the payment.
If someone tries to pay off the total amount owed, they will often get hit with a slew of unanticipated attorney fees totaling thousands of dollars for collection fees added on at the end after they thought they were all paid up.
When a judge awards attorney fees, MRS has been known to go back to court to ask the judge to reconsider the amount that was awarded. Then, unbelievably, they charge the patient for additional attorney fees because they spent time to increase the patient’s bill!
In a recent case involving a Melaleuca employee, MRS ran a $294 medical expense to well over $6500 with $5864.25 in legal fees via a number of legal maneuverings. When East Idaho News reported on this story, dozens of people from all walks of life, including the legal and medical communities, came forward with similarly shocking stories. After all the publicity, Smith and Driscoll contacted the Melaleuca employee and promised to drop more than $5000 in attorney fees if the employee would promise to not talk about it further. The employee refused to be silenced and rejected the offer.
Belinda and I have decided that we simply cannot stand by and allow our neighbors to go through the kind of financial duress and emotional pain that is apparently being perpetrated by MRS. Dozens or perhaps even hundreds of local families have been the targets of these aggressive tactics. Many find the behavior of these attorneys ruthless, unethical, and heartless. If the stories are true, it’s difficult not to agree. Fortunately, MRS seems to be the only collection firm that is operating with these principles.
Belinda and I have been blessed with more resources than we deserve. We have set aside $500,000 into an account that will be used for defending people in East Idaho from unreasonable attorney fees by any collection company, including MRS.
We want to make clear that we believe that people should pay their bills. Doctors and hospitals have the right and the need to collect for services rendered. We will not be helping people avoid paying legitimate bills. But, going forward, we will be defending people from unscrupulous, unreasonable, or unnecessary attorney fees. We will also work to get Idaho’s laws updated to protect citizens from unscrupulous attorneys.
Anyone with medical bills who is treated unfairly by any collection company from Southeast Idaho is a candidate for this protection. If you are such an individual, or know of such an individual please contact us confidentially at 208-534-2208 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or post publicly on our Facebook site “Idaho Medical Debt.”
The above words are my opinions derived from the facts as I understand them.