Medical debt is no longer displayed on your credit report the same way it used to be, but it can still impact your credit if it goes unpaid for too long. With recent changes in reporting requirements, there are new rules surrounding how long you have to pay off your medical debt before it gets reported and starts impacting your credit.
Here’s what you can expect to happen to your credit once you start to accumulate any kind of medical debt.
When Medical Collections Show Up on Your Credit Report
Medical debt doesn’t show up on your credit card until it’s left unpaid and goes to collections. Early on, it’s treated like any other bill in that it’s not listed on your credit report. If it’s a large amount that you can’t pay off in a lump sum, it’s best to try and sign up for a manageable payment plan with your medical provider. However, if you don’t pay on the balance for whatever reason, your account could end up being sold to a debt collection agency.
At that point, the collection agency is likely to report your medical debt to the credit bureaus. Like many other types of negative entries, medical debt is listed on your report for seven years, unless removed by initiating a credit dispute. The seven-year period starts from the first delinquency date associated with your medical debt.
What Happens to Unpaid Medical Debt
On the plus side for consumers, there are some extra restrictions that the credit bureaus must abide by when listing medical debt. Even if the collection agency reports the debt to Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion, the credit bureau must give you a 180-day grace period to pay off your balance. That period starts from the original due date, giving you a full six months to make arrangements to pay the bills.
So even if your health care provider sold the debt three months after your due date, you still have another three months to catch up. This also gives you time to potentially ask your insurance company to help you negotiate. The claims process can be a slow and tedious one, so this extended grace period is meant to make sure your credit doesn’t tank just because your insurance company took too long to pay all or part of the balance. Once the debt makes it onto your credit report, it’s listed as an unpaid collection.
How Credit Scoring Models Weigh Your Medical Debt
If you don’t manage to pay off your medical collections debt within the grace period, it will then likely be listed on your credit report. However, your score won’t suffer as much compared to other types of debt. That’s because the latest scoring models from both FICO and VantageScore don’t weigh medical debt as much as other types of debt, particularly credit card balance. It makes sense why — medical bills don’t generally indicate a pattern of poor financial decisions.
On the downside, not all lenders and financial institutions use the most current scoring models from FICO or VantageScore. Older versions may weigh medical debt equally with other kinds. Still, as companies continue to move forward and upgrade their lending platforms, it’ll be much easier to improve credit related to medical debt.
How Credit Disputes Work for Medical Debt
It is possible to get unpaid medical debt removed from your report so that you can fix your credit score before you reach the seven-year delinquency mark. Check your records for any credit errors. If you find any discrepancies in the debt amount, payment debts, or any other information, you may be able to start a credit dispute and have the entry negated. This entails sending a letter to the credit bureau. Regardless of their findings, the investigation should be completed within 30 days. Be sure to keep copies of all your communications related to your medical debt, both with the collection agency and the credit bureaus.
If you’re trying to fix your credit related to medical debt or any other negative items on your report, it can be helpful to get professional help. You certainly can execute the dispute process on your own, but it can be an extremely time-intensive process. And if you don’t research your rights adequately, you may end up doing more damage to your credit score.
Luckily, a professional firm like Ovation Credit can help. Our team of lawyers has years of experience in the field, plus knowledge of the intricacies of credit and debt law.
Get started with a free consultation today to start the credit repair process.