Donna Blomberg calls herself ornery.
She needed that attribute this fall to thwart an attempt by collection agencies to make her pay several hundred dollars for a couple of chiropractic adjustments she received years ago.
Blomberg is among dozens of former patients of one-time chiropractor Travis Broughton who were referred to collections earlier this year.
They endured nuisance calls and demand letters. Some worried their credit would be ruined for not paying medical bills they didn’t recall receiving.
Not Blomberg. She fought back, filing complaints with business organizations, the Federal Trade Commission and the Washington Attorney General’s Office. She researched her rights and made legal demands of collection firms that they couldn’t meet.
“Basically, they picked the wrong person to bully,” she said.
Blomberg first met Broughton at the Spokane County Interstate Fair. She received a free adjustment as part of a promotion.
She then received a couple more adjustments and X-rays. She remembers meeting her co-pay obligations. The clinic was to bill her insurer. She never heard another word about it.
Fast-forward six years, to 2009, when she received a bill. Confused about why she owed money so long after the treatment, she attempted to call Broughton. The number was disconnected.
That was about the time Broughton agreed to surrender his Washington chiropractic license as part of a settlement with state health regulators, who alleged he had double-billed some patients, used marijuana and had sex with a patient.
He denied wrongdoing but decided to comply with a 10-year license suspension and sell his Spokane Valley clinic rather than dispute the accusations leveled by an ex-girlfriend, he told The Spokesman-Review in June.
Broughton no longer has a listed telephone number, and his past numbers have been disconnected.
While the state was investigating Broughton, he also was working through a personal bankruptcy filing. The latter case spanned five years and resulted in a final decree in October.
As part of the bankruptcy, Broughton listed some chiropractic equipment as among his assets along with unpaid patient bills, listed as accounts receivable, with a value of $71,378.
At least some of the unpaid bills were turned over to a local collections agency. When Blomberg and others complained, the agency dropped Broughton as a client.
Then a firm called Collections Agency, M.D., of Orlando, Fla., dropped its efforts after numerous complaints and its own inquiry into Broughton’s background, supervising manager Basil Hamden said.
The firm had been calling some 40 to 60 former patients of Broughton. Most were adamant they didn’t owe anything.
Most were said to owe between $200 and $800, Hamden said.
But the collections firm couldn’t produce itemized billing records, Blomberg said. “Without those, there’s nothing to base a claim on … and I wasn’t going to pay.”
The episode has left Blomberg worried about other patients who may have been snared by sloppy billing practices.
“I wanted this whole thing to stop. For everyone. Hopefully it has,” she said.