Have you ever been billed for medical issues and didn’t have the means to pay the bill at the time, causing the bill to go into collections? Situations like these are very common and could cause a domino effect of problems.
Medical expenses are often unexpected, which makes them much more difficult to manage than, for example, a car loan.
Many people don’t have the extra funds on hand to cover the bill if it’s higher than expected, which could leave them with large amounts of debt. In addition to diminishing your bank account, medical bills can affect your credit if you don’t carefully manage them and pay them on time.
We’ll begin by saying the result is not ideal, but like most situations, it’s nothing you can’t overcome.
What is a medical collection?
A medical collection occurs when you’re billed for medical expenses and have failed to make a payment on time.
Doctors and hospitals aren’t the ones reporting your debts to credit bureaus if you miss a payment. Instead, they turn their unpaid bills over to a debt collector. Every health care provider has its own policies on when a bill is considered “past due.”
How can a medical collection affect my credit?
Receiving a medical bill won’t necessarily affect your credit score itself. Medical bills only affect your credit score if the medical collection agency gets involved.
However, any unpaid bills will show up on your credit report, which can have a negative impact on your credit score.
The good news is that the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—treat medical debt differently than other delinquent accounts. They add a 180-day grace period for medical debt that may end up on a credit report.
It’s difficult to predict exactly how many points any collection or derogatory information will lower you score.
How long can medical collections affect my score?
Collections can remain on a credit report for seven years from the date of the original delinquency.
If the medical bill is added to your credit report and your insurance provider later pays it, the credit bureau is required to remove it from your credit report. Even if you pay off the medical bill in full yourself, it will remain on your credit report unless you negotiate a “total delete” with the collection agency.
What are some ways I can keep medical bills off of my credit report?
- Know what your health insurance covers. If you’re not sure whether a particular medical procedure will be covered or how much your insurance company will pay, contact your health insurance company before your appointment. Ask how much you’ll be responsible for paying out of pocket so there won’t be any surprises!
- Keep track of your medical bills. It can be helpful to set a reminder so you don’t lose track of when payments are due.
- Set up payment plans. If you don’t have insurance or your insurance won’t cover a procedure, it may be worth trying to negotiate cost or a payment arrangement before you undergo treatment. Your medical service provider may charge lower rates for people who are paying privately.
- Review for mistakes. Carefully go over your medical bills to determine whether the charges are accurate or not. If something looks incorrect to you, contact your health care provider and insurance company as soon as possible and ask them to correct the error.
- Monitor your credit report. If there’s suspicious behavior and you notice a medical bill for an appointment or procedure that isn’t accurate, you can dispute the charges and might be able to get them removed from your credit report.
How can I move forward?
Even if you’ve experienced medical debt, it’s important to remember that there is a path to move forward and rebuild your financial independence!
The key is to be proactive when it comes to your medical bills and take immediate action if you find yourself owing an unexpected bill. Taking a few simple precautions when undergoing medical treatment will help keep medical debt from negatively impacting your credit score.
Having a medical bill on your credit report won’t ruin your credit forever, especially if you keep up with your other debt payments. If it’s the only negative item on your credit report and it’s paid, you can still have a good credit score and have a much better chance in getting future loan applications approved.
We would encourage anyone in this type of situation to meet with a credit counselor. Pelican offers credit counseling sessions that are completely free to Pelican members!
Our Nationally Certified Credit Counselors can help you create a plan that will ensure a successful financial future for you and your family. If you would like to speak with a credit counselor, please contact us at 1-800-351-4877 or our online form on our website.
Do you have any further questions about how your credit score can be affected by medical collections that we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments below!
* Pelican State CU membership required to take advantage of free credit counseling services. Visit pelicanstatecu.com/join to become a member. You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law. Credit counseling is not intended to give you financial advice, but the financial education you need to make informed decisions. Results may vary. Pelican and its employees are not responsible for any claim, suit, action or damage resulting from credit counseling.
Once a Pelican State CU member, always a member—through life’s milestones, we’ll always be there to help you with your financial needs. Your Financial Family for Life. Give us a call at 800-351-4877.