The three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — recently announced major changes to how they will report medical debt. These changes could have a wide-reaching impact and eliminate about 70% of the medical debt that appears on credit reports in the U.S. Credit scores impact the ability to access housing, own a car, and sometimes even gain employment. These changes will reduce the double penalization of many people who are underinsured or who have struggled to make ends meet.
So, what is changing?
1) Paid medical debt will no longer appear on credit reports
Starting July 1, 2022, paid medical debt in any amount will be removed from credit reports and will no longer affect your credit score, regardless of the scoring model creditors use. Some of the newer credit scoring models already ignore paid collections debt, so you won’t necessarily see a bump in your score. But if you’re tracking your score through an older scoring model, you should see an increase in your score when this takes effect.
Typically, a delinquent account will remain on your credit report for seven years, even if you pay it off. It may appear as “paid in full” and reflect a zero balance, but creditors can still see the negative history associated with it. Going forward, there will be no record of paid medical debt on credit reports.
2) Medical debt in collections will not appear on credit reports until it has gone unpaid for more than one year
This gives consumers more time — 6 months longer — to work with their insurance company and healthcare provider when there is a dispute over a bill. These types of disputes can take months to resolve and it’s not fair to expect consumers to foot the bill in the meantime or take a hit to their credit.
3) Medical collection debt for amounts under $500 will no longer be included on credit reports
Starting in 2023, unpaid medical bills for less than $500 will not be included on credit reports or affect credit scores. Currently, an unpaid $50 co-pay can wreak havoc on your credit score. Be aware that even if a small medical debt no longer appears on your credit report, you are still liable for the bill.
What you should do
Check your credit report: If you have medical debt that has been paid off, check your credit report after July 1, 2022, to ensure it no longer appears there. You can access all three of your credit reports for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Dispute any errors: If you do find any that paid medical debt still appears on your credit report, dispute it with each credit bureau that lists it:
Make a plan to pay off medical debt: If you still owe medical debt in collections and you are financially stable enough to address it, either start saving up to negotiate a lump-sum payment or offer to make a regular monthly payment. Either way, make sure it fits in your budget first so that you are not racking up debt elsewhere to pay this off.
3 Changes to Medical Debt that Could Affect Your Credit Score is written by Kylie Lipinski, A Certified Financial Trainer for financialgym.com