Federal watchdog questions whether credit reports should include medical debt – InsuranceNewsNet

The color of money

When my daughter’s right lung collapsed two years ago, she had to have emergency surgery. Even as she struggled to breathe, she worried about how much of her care would be covered by her health insurer.

This is the state of health care in United States – make patients worry more about the cost of their care.

By pure chance, my daughter ended up in a network hospital. Luckily, the majority of her medical bills — minus some co-payments — were covered.

But a reader made a prophetic observation after I wrote about the ordeal, asking me to write a follow-up on “how she coped with medical bills…and maybe inadequate insurance.”

Indeed, the dizzying flow of account statements caused my 26-year-old daughter a lot of stress. She had received services from out-of-network medical professionals at the network hospital. Eventually, some of the charges were dropped, but she’s still in a financial vacuum, waiting to see if her insurance will cover thousands of dollars in costs for the services she received during her nine-day hospitalization.

Such situations are typical, depending on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureauwho recently published a report criticizing the Byzantine medical billing system in United States.

the CFPB asked whether this debt should even be reported to credit bureaus and therefore factored into credit scores, which are used to determine people’s creditworthiness for loans, apartments or insurance.

In the second quarter of 2021, 58% of bills that were in collections and on people’s credit files were medical bills, according to the CFPB.

“When most of us think of credit reports, we think of bonds where we have taken out a specific loan or credit card,” the CFPB director said. Rohit Chopra said in an interview. “You go to a provider or a hospital, sometimes you have no idea what services are being provided to you. All you know is that you are in the network.”

But when consumers can’t pay, accounts end up with a collection agent.

the CFPB Studies show $88 billion medical debt on consumer credit files June 2021.

While young people more frequently see their medical debt being collected, older adults and veterans are also heavily affected by medical debt. Blacks and Hispanics, as well as low-income people of all races and ethnicities, are also more likely to have medical debt, the CFPB says the report.

A report published this week by the National Consumer Law Center examined how medical debt disproportionately affects black households.

So should medical debt be excluded from credit reports?

Not necessarily, depending on the Consumer Data Industry Association the trade group which represents, among others, the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.

Large medical debt could signal to a mortgage lender that a potential borrower may not be able to service a home loan, said Francois CreightonPresident and CEO of CDIA.

“In the mortgage context, they’re looking at your debt-to-equity ratio,” Creighton said. “And that’s where medical debt can be useful in trying to figure out what your total debt situation is. We’re doing people a favor when we give them loans that they can’t afford to repay.”

Chopra pointed out that medical billing data is not a good predictor of people’s ability to pay off other debts. In fact, the new credit reporting models do not weigh on medical recoveries as much as other forms of credit. And when that data is removed, people’s scores can increase significantly, by up to 25 points.

Yet older scoring models still used by lenders account for overdue debt.

One good thing that happened is that starting this year, under the No Surprises Act, insurance companies, plan providers and healthcare facilities are prohibited from sending out surprise bills for emergency services or even non-emergency care from out-of-network hospitals, doctors or other providers.

According to Kaiser Family Foundation.

So much is unknown about how long people will suffer from COVID-related conditions requiring long-term medical care, making this a good time to consider eliminating medical debt from people’s credit reports.

“I was incredibly upset and outraged by the billing process,” my daughter said. “It’s insane that I was supposed to know which was the right hospital to go to during a major health crisis. Even though I ended up in the right one, it still didn’t protect me. After a major health crisis, your only job should be to rest and recover, not to panic about how you’re going to pay medical bills.”

Readers can write to Michelle single at The Washington Post, 1301 K Street NW, washington d.c. 20071. His email address is [email protected]. Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible.

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John A. Bogar