As with any kind of debt, medical debts can affect your credit negatively. This can restrict your ability to buy property or even find a job. Our credit scores impact a wider area of our lives than we realize.
Your credit history demonstrates how often you pay your bills on time. So, you should have no worries as long as you are paying your medical bills in a timely fashion.
However, if you have to hold off paying the hospital a large bill because of negotiations with your insurance, your medical bill might already be in collections.
This is what you need to know about medical collection debt and how it can affect your credit score.
When It Can Impact Your Credit
Medical debt will not affect your credit score unless it has been reported to a credit bureau. It is important to note that your medical provider is not the one that reports it- a debt collection agency will.
When a hospital turns over your debt to collections, the debt collector will often report it. Many people have no idea that they are delinquent until the collector contacts them for the first time.
When your debt goes to collections, your credit score is going to be significantly lowered. It is in your best interest to avoid this if possible.
What Protects You
There are a few things that can protect you when it comes to medical bill debt. Medical debts are treated differently by collectors. You have more protections with it over other kinds of debts.
For instance, the waiting period is much longer. The credit bureaus have to wait at least 180 days before they list the medical debt against your credit score. The grace period is there to give you the extra time to make plans to pay the bill.
As another benefit, medical debt can be removed from your credit record. While other collections remain on your score for at least seven years, if negotiated properly, your medical debt can be removed from your credit record after you have paid it off entirely.
When your insurance demonstrates that they are going to pay the rest of the bill, the negative effect on your credit score will also be removed.
These benefits and protections were added in 2017. They reflected the idea that medical debt could happen to anyone- that it was not the best way to indicate credit risk or other behaviors. Medical expenses are often out of people’s control.
You will want to be sure that you pay it and treat it seriously. Since it can still harm you, although not as badly as other types of credit debts.
How Medical Debt Hurts You
Medical debt should still be seen as serious, even if the impact does not last as long as other kinds of debt. It can still harm you, since it usually brings down your score by 100 points or so. That number can take a very long time for you to bring back up on your own.
You Can Lessen the Impact
Although medical debt still hurts you, you can lower the amount of damage that it causes. If the amount charged seems unfair or the bill was sent to collections early, make sure that you challenge it legally.
By doing so, you can greatly lessen the impact the debt causes- or remove it all together.
When you question whether you owe the bill, the collection agency will dispute it with you. From there, you usually have between 20 and 30 days to reply. We recommend that you do this in writing.
You want to keep trying to negotiate with them. Settling can help lower the total cost for you, saving your financial life. However, some harm will still be done to your credit score.
To summarize, medical bill debt does impact your credit score, in a bad way. You want to challenge the debt collectors, so that they need to provide proof that you owe them. If they come up with nothing, then you do not have to pay them.
Overall, it is important that you question what the debt collectors ask of you. As you keep written records of your conversation, the courts will be able to see that you were making attempts to pay and lower the burden on yourself. This makes them look more favorably at you.