What Happens When Medical Bills Go to Collections?

Dear Experian,

I owe a large medical bill and have been making monthly payments to the hospital, but they have recently told me that if I don't start paying a higher amount they will turn the debt over to a collection agency. What happens when a medical bill goes to collections? As long as a monthly payment is being made, can this really hurt my credit?


Dear TKL,

When a medical debt is sold to collections, the collection agency that purchased the debt may report the account to Experian. An unpaid medical collection account will almost certainly have a negative impact on your credit scores, even if you are sending in monthly payments.

Contact the Creditor as Soon as You Receive a Bill

Experian no longer displays medical collections on a credit report until they are 180 days past due. This grace period gives individuals with medical debt six months to resolve any insurance or billing issues and to make payment arrangements if necessary before the past due balance is reported.

If you are faced with a medical debt that you are unable to pay off, you should always contact the doctor or medical facility immediately to discuss your options, which it sounds like you've done.

Depending on the circumstances, some medical offices may be willing to work with you to set up a payment plan that can keep your account from being sold to collections and keep your credit history from being affected.

How Long Will a Medical Collection Be on My Credit Report?

If you are not able to come to an agreement with the recovery department and they do sell your debt to a collection agency that reports to Experian, the collection account will remain part of your credit history for seven years from the original delinquency date. The original delinquency date is the date the account first became late leading up to the collection status.

Thanks for asking,
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist