Credit reporting agency settlement may affect medical debt collection

A settlement between Ohio government officials and credit reporting agencies may have ramifications regarding medical debt collection in the state.

The Ohio Attorney General's office has been part of an ongoing investigation of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion over credit reporting errors and violations of consumer protection laws. Per terms of a settlement, the big three credit reporting agencies have agreed to fix credit reporting errors more promptly and wait longer before counting unpaid medical bills against a person's credit score. The settlement was reached in March of 2015.

The Ohio Attorney General's office, along with government officials from New York and Mississippi, negotiated with the big three credit reporting agencies. Consumers will also be able to get a free credit report annually per terms of the agreement.

Medical debt an ongoing concern for consumer advocates

Medical debt remains a hot-button consumer issue. Medical debt accounts for over half of unpaid debt collection items listed on a credit report, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Despite the increase in medical insurance coverage in Ohio, many patients remain on plans with high deductibles, which can lead to delayed payments.

Under the settlement, the big three have agreed to wait 180 days before having unpaid medical debt negatively affect the debtor's credit score. In addition, paid debts will disappear from credit reports.

Changes may affect medical collection efforts

The changes may have some effect on medical collections in Ohio. With more time to resolve collection issues before negative consequences occur, debtors may put off paying medical debts for longer. And because fully paid past medical debts will not reflect poorly on credit scores, there is less incentive than ever for patients with past due accounts to pay promptly.

Combined with the ability of consumers to erase medical debt through bankruptcy, allowing people with past due medical bills to wait longer to pay off debt could mean that medical providers seeking to recover outstanding balances may have more difficulty in obtaining collection. Medical and credit card debt are already low on the priority list for many people struggling with debt.

In addition, numerous federal and state consumer protection issues exist for Ohioans behind on medical payments. Complying with HIPAA, the FDCPA and CFPB standards can be a difficult task for medical providers just seeking to be compensated for previously completed medical work.

Medical collection attorneys can help

At Delev Associates, LLC, our attorneys are experienced debt collectors that can help Ohio medical providers obtain fair compensation for their work while still complying with relevant state and federal law.

Medical providers looking for help with collection efforts should contact our office to discuss potential collection options, including obtaining a judgment against a debtor and pursuing subsequent collection efforts.

Keywords: Medical debt collection, credit reporting agencies, credit score, Ohio settlement, Delev & Associates.