Medical debt is a burden carried by millions of Americans, weighing down their credit scores even though this debt often arises from a single incident related to a critical medical issue. And concern over the impact of this debt has only grown since the start of the pandemic.
But now, the three major credit reporting agencies are taking a collective step to stop medical debt from marring a person’s credit, announcing in March that they would no longer include medical debt on credit reports, according to Business Wire.
Beginning in July 2022, Equifax®, Experian® and Transunion® won’t report on medical debt paid after it was submitted to collections, clearing this information from a person’s credit report rather than allowing it to remain for up to seven years as it can now.
The credit reporting agencies also said they wouldn’t include medical debt on credit reports if it is less than $500 or if it is less than one year old, which gives consumers an additional six months to address their debt before it lands on their report.
The bureaus said these steps will effectively eliminate 70% of medical debt information from consumer credit reports. The New York Times reports other agencies have already taken steps to exclude damaging medical debt information from credit reports, altering their scoring models to adjust the weight given to this debt, which has shown to be less of a risk indicator than other types of debt.
This collective effort is important because credit reports in 2021 included $88 billion in medical debt, according to a report titled “Medical Debt Burden in The United States,” by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And this debt can have real, long-term consequences for someone who may want to buy a house or open a credit card.
A study released this month from healthcare.com revealed that nearly half of millennials and Gen Xers said medical debt dinged their credit scores. And not by just a little. According to a recent study, people whose debt had been sent to collections saw their scores drop by an average of 110 points.
But changing the way major credit reporting agencies account for medical debt does not forgive the debt or even prevent it from ultimately negatively affect your credit. In effect, the most impactful change is that it gives consumers a little more time to pay off their debt and the chance to keep it off their report.
If you’re concerned that some medical debt may still linger on your credit report, consider engaging a credit report monitoring service to assess your report to stay on top of any marks that may affect your credit.