Health Advice



$5,995 for a leg compression sleeve? Here's how to deal with an exorbitant medical bill in collections

Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

PHILADELPHIA — David Heydt had been hitting the tennis courts too hard and needed minor elbow surgery to loosen a tight tendon.

The 71-year-old thought nothing of the compression sleeves to reduce the risk of blood clots during recovery that he was handed on his way out.

Three and a half years later, this past February, he received a collection notice for an unpaid bill for the fabric arm covering: $5,995.

He didn't remember getting a bill, or even ever using the sleeves, which wrap around the calf and tighten like a blood pressure cuff when the attached battery pack is turned on.

"I found it last week in a closet," Heydt said of the unopened box.

Heydt's surprise shows how medical bills can sneak up long after you've recovered. And like most health problems, ignoring medical debt only makes it worse. Once in collections, medical debt can affect your credit rating, and some agencies may attempt to garnish your wages.


About 40% of Americans have unpaid medical bills, according to a 2022 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. A third of those with medical debt owe less than $1,000, but about half of Americans don't have enough in savings to cover even $500 in unexpected costs.

Stumped about what to do, Heydt turned to The Inquirer. We looked into his options, now that the bill was in the hands of a debt collector.

Verify the debt

Under federal law, debt collectors must send you a debt validation notice, with information about the amount you owe, the original creditor, and how to appeal.


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