Credit bureaus will write off most medical debt

Equifax (EFX), Experian (EXPGF) and Trans Union (TRU) will eliminate billions of dollars from the accounts of consumers who had to deal with unexpected medical bills that they were unable to pay. The three companies said they made the move after months of research.

“Medical collection debts often result from unforeseen medical circumstances. These changes are another step we are taking together to help people across the United States focus on their financial and personal well-being,” the companies said. in a joint statement.

The announcement follows research from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau showing that Americans had accumulated $88 billion in medical debt on consumer credit files as of June 2021. This is the debt collection credit account the most common on credit files, the CFPB said.

Medical debt can be volatile and unpredictable, and can affect many financially well-off consumers. Black, Hispanic, young and low-income consumers are most likely to be affected by medical debt, the bureau said.

Medical debt issues have escalated since the Covid-19 pandemic hospitalized millions, and CFBP Director Rohit Chopra has publicly criticized credit reporting agencies’ collection of medical debts. On March 1, Chopra said the CFPD would “look closely” at the big three credit reporting agencies.

“We expect them to take seriously their role as major players in the credit reporting system, a system whose integrity and accuracy can determine the financial future of hundreds of millions of people. “, said Chopra.

Effective July 1, paid medical collection debts will no longer be included in consumer credit reports. Millions of Americans previously had lowered credit scores because debts paid after being sent to collections could show up on credit reports for up to seven years.

Further changes are expected. It will now take one month for unpaid medical collection debt to appear on a consumer’s report, instead of six months, the previous norm.

The three companies also said that beginning in the first half of 2023, medical collection debts under $500 will no longer be included in credit reports.