After suffering a serious injury or illness, it can be hard to pay the bills that inevitably follow. Considering how many Americans are now facing medical debt in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many wonder the effects this will have on their credit score and how long the debt will remain on their credit report.
After medical debt has been reported to the credit bureaus, it can remain on a consumer’s credit report for up to seven years. However, a person’s medical debt is not immediately reported to that individual’s credit as soon as it is incurred. It will not be reported to a person’s credit so long as that debt remains with the original service provider. Once a person defaults on the debt and it goes to collection, only then will the medical debt begin to show up on a person’s credit report.
The key is to keep the debt out of collections. Medical providers understand that not everyone can pay large medical bills in full, which is why most offer some type of repayment plans or financial aid.
Generally speaking, it usually takes about three months of missing payments before the debt is reported to the credit bureaus. Even after the debt is reported, credit bureaus must wait an additional 180 days before reporting it as past due debt. The reason for this extended period of time is to give insurance companies a chance to work out any issues which could have caused the payments to be missed.
Because insurance is involved, we recommend clients check their credit reports on a regular basis to ensure that the correct information is being reported. It is not uncommon for medical debt to be incorrect due to an error on the part of the provider or the insurance company. If an error is discovered, it is recommended that you immediately report this to the credit bureau to have it fixed.
One common mistake that many consumers make is to believe that their medical bills must be paid in full to keep them out of collections. It is strongly recommended that consumers work directly with the medical provider(s) on financial assistance or payment plans instead to slowly work down the balance and keep these charges off credit cards. Credit cards come with high interest rates while many medical providers will charge minimal interest on payment plans made directly with them.
While medical debt does remain on a person’s credit report for seven years, if that debt is eventually paid off by an insurer, the three major credit reporting agencies will remove that debt from the consumer’s credit history, which is another reason why credit agencies delay 180 days before reporting a medical debt in the event a payment is due from the insurer and not the individual consumer himself or herself.
In the end, if someone is on the receiving end of a high medical bill, it pays to ask what options are available for repayment instead of letting a payment or two go by. The alternative far outweighs the inconvenience of making that call.
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Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.