Congress Looks at Removing Paid or Settled Medical Debt from Credit Reports

June 28, 2012 by Zack Smith

Last year, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) introduced the Medical Debt Resolution Act (H.R. 2086), which would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to require the Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) to remove paid or settled medical debt from a consumers’ credit file.

The bill would require information related to a single fully paid or settled medical debt of $2,500 or less that had been characterized as delinquent, charged off, or in collection for credit reporting purposes, which, from the date of payment or settlement, antedates the report by more than 45 calendar days.

As a general rule, expunging predictive information is not in the best interest of consumers or credit granters — both of which benefit when credit reports and scores are as accurate and predictive as possible. If any type of debt information proven to be predictive is expunged, consumers risk exposure to improper credit products as they may appear to be more financially equipped to handle new debt.

It’s important to note that medical debts are never taken into consideration by the credit scoring company VantageScore if the debt reporting is known to be from a medical facility. The challenge, however, is knowing when a debt is medical related. For example, when a medical debt is outsourced to a third-party collection agency it is difficult to know the true origin of the debt. Collection accounts of lower than $250, or ones that have been settled, have less impact on a consumer’s VantageScore.

The legislation also does not address medical bills paid with a credit card and there is risk that the current language could be interpreted to require that a credit card balance containing paid medical debt be expunged from a credit file. This is a growing issue as patients pay about $45 billion in medical costs with a credit card, according to a 2007 report by Mckinsey & Company.

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