There’s a movement afoot in Washington to curb one frustrating category of debt that can simply ruin a person’s credit report: medical debt.
But if the Senate acts on a recently passed House bill, such debt would not be allowed to be factored into your credit report. The bill seems like a big benefit for consumers (and a pain in the neck for health care providers) — but will it pass?
Formerly known as H.R. 3421, the legislation would prohibit credit reporting firms from including medical debt on a consumer’s credit scoring profile. It would “exclude from consumer credit reports medical debt that has been in collection and has been fully paid
In plain English, that means if you settled a medical claim then credit scoring agencies would have to abandon their long-standing practice of including the existence of such debt — even after settlement — on consumers’ credit reports. The bill would impact medical debts that were discharged more than 45 days before the credit report is issued.
According to a study from the Commonwealth Fund, 72 million Americans had some form of medical debt in 2007, while 28 million were contacted by collections agencies for unpaid bills.
Yet even when a consumer pays off a medical bill that’s delinquent, it still shows up on his or credit report as a "debt in collection." The delinquent medical bill may stay on a consumer’s credit report for several years, and can significantly damage a credit score. That not only results in a higher risk of being rejected for credit, a lower score can mean higher interest rates on this like new home, new cars, credit cards, and student loans.
Medical bills by their very nature tend to confuse consumers, many of whom may not even realize what they’re being charged when they walk out of a doctor’s office, medical clinic, or hospital.