That’s not entirely true. Most hospitals will continue to attempt to bill you for the full amount for months, and if you ignore that they may then try enrolling you in their “payment plan” where they send you bills with much lower “monthly payment” amounts. If you ignore everything, they WILL turn the bill over to a collections agency eventually. The collections agencies usually try to settle with you for a portion of the bill, offering anything from a 10% discount to as much as 50% depending on the total amount owed and the length of time it’s been due and the amount already collected.
If you ignore every single attempt to contact you and collect anything, they can report it as an unpaid debt to the credit agencies after 180 days (6 months). It will affect your credit rating, though most credit agencies do not factor medical debt as heavily as they do standard debt when compiling your credit report.
TL;DR - Don’t completely ignore medical debt. Try to negotiate at every step. Even if it ends up going to collections, you can often negotiate a much lower amount with the collections agency, and it won’t end up on your credit report.
Our current healthcare system sucks for everyone who is not a member of Congress. It needs to change.