Struggling to pay medical debt? You’re not alone, and help is on the way this summer.

3 minute read

One in ten U.S. adults — about 23 million people — owed medical debt, according to a March 2022 Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey. Of those consumers, around 11 million owe more than $2,000. Roughly three million people owe at least $10,000 in medical bills.

Other findings from the KFF survey:

  • More than one-tenth (11 percent) of people ages 35 to 49 and 12 percent of people ages 50 to 64 are more likely than other age groups to report owing medical debt.
  • Greater shares of people in poor health (21 percent), those living with a disability (15 percent) surveyed reported medical debt.
  • More black adults (16 percent) report having medical debt compared to white (nine percent), Hispanic (nine percent) and Asian American (four percent) adults.
  • People uninsured for more than six months are more likely to report medical debt than those who were insured for most or all of the year.
  • Many households don’t have enough money to cover even the typical private health plan deductible. Around 32 percent of those surveyed couldn’t pay a $2,000 medical bill, and more than half (51 percent) were unable to pay a $6,000 bill.
  • Lower-income households with employee health plans spend on average roughly one-tenth of their income on health care, including premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

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Major Credit Bureaus Set to Remove Paid Medical Collection Debt from Credit Reports

Positive changes are coming this July for consumers with paid medical collection accounts on their credit reports. In March, all three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — announced they will no longer include paid medical collection debt accounts on consumer credit reports, effective July 1, 2022.

The change isn’t the first aimed at helping consumers get a handle on medical debt and its effect on their credit history. In 2017, the three major nationwide credit bureaus put new medical debt rules in place that enacted a 180-day waiting period reported by collection agencies before the delinquent account appears on the consumer’s credit report.

As of July 1, 2022, that waiting period will be extended to one year, allowing consumers more time to pay off medical debt, work out a payment plan with healthcare providers and address insurance claims and concerns before the debt negatively affects their credit.

Find out: Credit Bureaus Will Erase Medical Debt, But Not for Everyone

How will the new medical debt rules affect my credit?

When the new rules take effect this summer, the three major credit bureaus will remove around 70 percent of negative medical debt marks from consumers’ credit reports, according to a joint press release issued by Experian, TransUnion and Equifax in March.

And there’s more good news: In the first half of 2023, all three bureaus will also stop including medical collection debt under $500. The new medical debt changes will benefit consumers struggling to pay medical debt or with paid medical debt collection accounts on their credit report that drive down their credit scores.

Negative credit history generally stays on your credit report for up to seven years, so wiping medical debt collection accounts from consumer credit reports may boost many people’s credit scores, allowing a better chance of being approved for credit cards, loans and other credit.

“These changes are another step we’re taking together to help people across the United States focus on their financial and personal wellbeing,” said Mark W. Begor, CEO at Equifax, Brian Cassin, CEO at Experian and Chris Cartwright, CEO at TransUnion in a joint statement.

“As an industry we remain committed to helping drive fair and affordable access to credit for all consumers.”

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC