Nearly 1-in-5 households in the United States has reported having some form of overdue medical debt. Patients and their families are contacted by debt collectors about medical bills more than any other type of debt, and it commonly results in negative information appearing on credit records. In fact, in 2021, 43 million people had allegedly unpaid medical bills on their credit reports.
Congress, federal agencies, and others have taken steps to respond to the medical debt crisis confronting millions of families. Congress passed the No Surprises Act to help protect Americans from certain unexpected medical bills, including surprise medical bills for emergency services from out-of-network providers. In addition, the CFPB told debt collectors and consumer credit reporting companies that they can’t collect, furnish, or report any invalid medical debt.
The three nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – also removed all paid medical debts from consumer credit reports and those less than a year old. They have also taken steps to remove all medical collections under $500. This last step went into effect on April 11, 2023, and with this change, it’s estimated that roughly half of those with medical debt on their reports will have it removed from their credit history.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans with overdue medical bills, you may be able to take steps to ensure this information no longer affects your credit, including your access to employment and housing.
Check your credit report
The changes recently introduced by the nationwide credit reporting companies cover all medical bills reported to them by debt collectors, also known as medical collections. One of the first steps you can take is to check your credit reports for any outstanding medical bills. Currently, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are offering free online credit reports once a week through AnnualCreditReport.com.
- If you previously had a medical collection under $500, a paid medical collection, or a collection less than a year old on your credit report, check to make sure they no longer appear on your reports. Be aware, however, that this doesn’t include credit card collections, even if you used your credit card to pay for a medical expense under $500.
- Also, while you’re looking at your reports, check for any other information that might be inaccurate.
- If you find a medical collection under $500, a paid medical collection, a collection less than a year old, or errors on your report, you can dispute that information with the credit reporting company.
In addition, the nationwide credit reporting companies have announced that they’re extending the amount of time you have to dispute, negotiate, or pay for any outstanding bills before they can be reported. Previously, unpaid medical bills were generally furnished to credit reporting companies after 60 to 120 days, but the nationwide credit reporting companies are now waiting one year from the time you saw a doctor before they’re allowing medical debt to appear on your credit report. If you’re unable to pay your medical bills, you may qualify for financial assistance programs, often called “charity care.”
Can’t resolve medical debt concerns? Submit a complaint
We expect that the No Surprises Act, the recent actions by credit reporting companies, and the CFPB’s own actions and guidance will reduce the challenges many families face after they receive medical care. The CFPB also wants to ensure that the credit reporting companies are doing their jobs to investigate any information that people dispute.
If you find invalid medical bills on your credit report or if you’re having issues disputing other medical bill errors with the credit reporting companies, submit a complaint to the CFPB.