Anybody who has had significant medical treatment lately knows just how expensive healthcare can be, even if you have good insurance. Making matters worse, many medical facilities aren’t very good at exercising patience as they wait for the bill to be paid. It is not at all unusual to see medical debts being sent to collections without the care provider ever trying to contact the patient to determine if and when the bill will be paid. In some cases, the bill is sent to collections before the patient is even made aware of an obligation to pay.
This hasty action can have very negative consequences for the patient. Even if the bill ultimately gets paid, the fact that it was sent to collections leaves a black mark on the patient’s credit report. In some cases, the hit can knock off 100 points for as long as seven years.
Thankfully, the problem has drawn the attention of some federal lawmakers. Four U.S. Senators, including Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, recently sent a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that asked the agency to look into the negative impacts of medical debt collection.
The Senators are also sponsoring legislation that would change the way medical debt is reported on consumers’ credit scores. Their bill, called the Medical Debt Responsibility Act, would require credit rating agencies to remove medical debt from a consumer’s credit report within 45 days after the debt is either paid off or settled.
There is no question that medical debt is a major problem for many families in New Jersey and throughout the United States. Hopefully, these Senators’ efforts will lead to a change in the right direction.
Source: Health Tech, “Senators Want Medical Debt Reporting to be Part of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” Steve Anderson, August 6, 2012.
To learn more about handing unmanageable medical bills, please visit our Bankruptcy & Medical Debt page.