News From Our Perspective

Navigate the Healthcare System with Ease

Mar 2015

Is Getting Medical Care Making Your Credit Sick?

Your credit score is used as a measure of your credit worthiness. It can influence the amount of your interest rates, your ability to get loans and even the ability to rent an apartment. And according to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), medical debts can ruin your credit score. It accounts for more than half of the collection items on credit reports. What is even more striking is the fact that about half of the people facing collection for medical debt, have an otherwise clean credit report with no sign of past debt collection problems.

The reason for this? First, medical bills are unpredictable and typically much more difficult, if not impossible, for you to save or prepare for because they tend to arise from a sudden devastating diagnosis or a debilitating injury. Second, medical debts often stem from insurance-coverage delays or billing disputes that are beyond the control of the consumer. As a result, medical debt may not accurately reflect your creditworthiness.

In an effort to provide more consumer protection, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, three of the nation’s major credit reporting agencies, have agreed to a 180-day grace period before medical debt is added to your credit report. This new six-month period will give you a chance to resolve payment disputes with health insurance companies and medical providers before your credit is negatively affected. In addition, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will remove medical debt from your credit report as soon as the medical bill is paid. This is unlike other debts that may remain on a credit report for years.

This new agreement will give you the opportunity to resolve medical bill disputes before your credit is negatively affected. The agreement also guarantees that as soon as a medical bill is paid, your credit report will be updated to remove the debt. To take advantage of this new agreement and to proactively protect your credit report from medical debt, here are some tips when handling any medical bill:

• Make sure the bill is correct, and if you’re not sure, ask your medical provider or health insurance company.

• Contact your health insurance company to make sure it is covering all of the charges it is responsible for paying. This also means reviewing the charges billed as patient responsibility and making sure they are not actually owed by your health insurance company.

• Call the biller before it goes to collections, even if you can’t pay. Try to work out a payment plan in the event you are unable to pay the full amount owed.

• Ask the medical provider if you qualify for charity care or try to negotiate a lower fee.

As so eloquently stated by Richard Cordray, the director of the CFPB, “Getting medical care should not make your credit report sick.”.

Our Partners Have a Combined Legal Experience of Over 100 Years

Meet our experts