If you’re reading this, chances are you know that medical bills can be a huge source of stress for Americans. Approximately 100 million adult Americans are currently in medical care debt, with outstanding balances ranging from $500 to $10,000.
You don’t have to worry about an unpleasant surprise waiting for you when it comes to medical debt if you are wondering do medical bills affect your credit. Understanding how and why your credit is being impacted can be the first step toward taking control of your financial situation and moving forward with a stronger financial future.
How Does Medical Debt Work?
Medical debt is money you owe to your health care provider. If you have a health insurance plan, this debt is usually not reported to you. Instead, it is reported to the three major credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) which could negatively impact credit scores.
If you are paying for health care out of pocket, however, it counts as “outstanding debt” on your credit report. This means that if you apply for a loan or buy a car and show an outstanding balance from medical care, the lender might be less likely to give you a loan or approve your car for purchase.
Do Medical Bills Hurt Your Credit?
Medical bills can be a huge financial burden. Even if you have health insurance, unexpected medical expenses can leave you with a significant bill that you must pay right away. And those unpaid medical bills will negatively affect credit scores. As a result, medical debt can hurt your rating and make it harder for you to get a loan or buy a home.
When medical bills are sent to collections, they may be reported as “medical accounts” in your credit report. This means that any collection agency will see this as an open account on your credit report, and it will increase the perceived risk of defaulting on future loans or other lending products.
Medical debt also has more of an impact on your credit score than other types of debt. This is because medical debt is considered very high in value by lenders. For example, if you owe $10,000 in medical bills and $15,000 in other types of debt, the total amount outstanding would still be $25,000.
Can Medical Bills Be Removed From My Credit Report?
There are certain circumstances where you can request your medical bill debt to be removed from your credit report. These instances include:
- Collections made in error.
- If bills have been paid by insurance or a medical provider.
- As of July 1, 2022, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion will remove paid medical debt from credit reports. In addition, lenders will report your debt after one year instead of six months. You no longer need to request that the debt be removed from your file, and you will no longer see a mark on your file if you’ve paid it off.
However, there are some things you can do yourself to remove medical bills from your credit report.
Call The Medical Provider And Negotiate
Depending on the nature of your particular problem, it may be possible to negotiate with a creditor in order to remove a negative mark from your credit report. However, this is not always feasible, and you should always contact the credit reporting agency in the first place before making any requests.
One of the main advantages of having a good relationship with an established medical provider is that you will be able to negotiate directly with them. By calling the provider or visiting their location, you have access to members of the organization who are willing to listen and make changes for you.
This is especially true if your problem involves a billing error or collection action. You can speak with a member of the organization’s staff who is familiar with the situation and can get things sorted out quickly and efficiently.
Work With Independent Advocates And Government Agencies
The process of removing debt from your credit report includes working with an independent advocate who has the authority to negotiate on your behalf (i.e., the person you’ve authorized to act as an authorized representative who can represent you in a dispute or negotiation).
You can also work with a government agency, such as a consumer protection office or a credit bureau because these agencies have the ability to make changes to your credit report based on your request.
There are several steps involved in removing debt from your credit report. First, get in touch with an independent advocate and let them know what’s going on. The advocate will then need to go through the same process as you did when you first discovered the debt: filling out forms, requesting documentation, and more.
If both parties are able to agree that the debt shouldn’t be there, then the advocacy organization will be able to submit a request for removal.
Consider Debt Consolidation
If you have multiple debts, consolidating them into one account can reduce the overall amount of debt that you owe. It can also make it easier for you to repay what you owe because you only have one monthly payment to worry about.
If you’re struggling to meet your monthly obligations and are facing financial difficulties, debt consolidation can be a good option. It will help to lower your total debt burden by combining all of your existing debts into one new loan. This reduces the number of creditors reporting on your account.
Once you have consolidated your debts, you will only be responsible for a single payment each month. Debt consolidation is a great way to get out of debt if you don’t have the means to pay off your entire balance right away.
Apply For a 0% APR Credit Card
0% interest, easy to pay off, and no credit checks are just some of the advantages of getting a 0% APR credit card. It is useful for people who need to get rid of debt or have bad credit. But there are certain things you have to know first before applying for one.
You can get one by applying for one with your local bank or credit union. Make sure to check the terms and conditions of the card. Most banks and credit unions will offer a promotional 0% APR introductory period, in which you pay nothing if you make regular payments of at least the minimum amount due.
Sign Up For a Credit Monitoring Service
If you have a large amount of debt and need to remove it from your credit report, then you will want to sign up for a credit monitoring service. These services are available to any consumer who needs help keeping tabs on their credit report. They typically offer three main types of services:
- Free access to your credit report
- An alert whenever there is a change in your report
- The ability to dispute incorrect entries on your report
Most credit monitoring services are free for the first 30 days, so it’s worth taking advantage of the free trial if you can. After that, most companies charge a monthly fee for continued access to your report. Some of these will also require you to pay a yearly fee if you want to access before certain milestones, like being late on a payment or having multiple accounts closed in the same year.
Does Paying Off Medical Collections Improve Credit?
Paying off medical collections can improve your credit score if you’re trying to rebuild damaged credit. To improve your rating, make sure you are paying all of your debts on time. If you cannot pay off your medical collections in full, make sure to at least pay what you can each month.
Paying only the minimum amount of payments will not improve your score. In addition, always make sure that you have enough available credit to cover the minimum payments required on all of your accounts. This way you can ensure that there is no negative impact on your credit score from any medical collections that may have been sent in error or from being too high in the first place.
- You can expect to see an increase of up to 150 points. But this will depend on your current financial situation. For example, if you have a lot of outstanding collections, paying off your medical debt will have less of an effect on your FICO score.
- It can take one to two months to see an update on your FICO score. If you don’t see any increase after this, contact your preferred reporting agency and ask them for an update on your file.
What to Do if You Can’t Pay Your Medical Bills
Medical bills can be overwhelming and expensive, even for those with insurance. If you have a medical bill that you are unable to pay, there are some options that may be available to you:
- Contact your health insurance provider to find out if they have any payment plans or assistance programs available. If not, you may qualify for Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Medicaid and CHIP are government-funded health insurance programs that provide many low-income families with health coverage.
- Debt counseling or medical debt forgiveness programs. These programs help reduce the amount of money that you owe to a certain account by reducing your outstanding balances. If a program does not offer debt counseling or medical debt forgiveness, it may allow you to make payments toward your bill over time until the balance is lowered enough for you to be able to afford the full amount owed.
- Negotiate a lower payment amount with the creditor. This is often possible through a process called “debt negotiation.” But keep in mind that even if you are able to reduce the amount that you owe by $100 or more each month.