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Did the employer send you the bill or a collection agency? It is not clear in your post. Also, was your offer to the employer or an agency that now owns the receivalble?

If a collection agency owns your debt, they likely purchased it from your employer for a small fraction of what you owed on speculation that they would be able to collect some or all of it. By acknowledging the debt you very likely gave up what little leverage you might have. They now have more documentation against you if they decide to sue you to get a judgement. With this stronger position they are probably less likely to settle for your current offer.

Much of the advice on how to proceed will hinge on the amount and terms of the debt if you care to share such information. Also the terms of your separation from the company could be relavent.

See the following FTC link for more information on your rights and responsibilities to collection agencies.
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