John Oliver made a huge splash this week when, to prove a point on his show, he purchased $15 million worth of medical debt for $60,000… and then promptly forgave it all. A lot of that debt was “zombie debt,” which, like its namesake, keeps coming back from the dead to bother people who would much rather be left alone and unbitten.
Given that nonprofit hospitals are tax-exempt, the general view is that their primary focus should be on providing care for those who need it rather than making using the court system to make those patients pay up. Almost all of these hospitals have programs to reduce bills for people living below or near the poverty line, but some are suing poor patients without ever telling them about these options. [More]
When a debt collector decides to file a lawsuit against an alleged debtor, that decision might have more to do with where the defendant lives than with how much they allegedly owe. [More]
What happens when you combine expensive — and often unanticipated — medical bills and overzealous debt collectors? An environment ripe for abusive, unfair collection practices. At least that appears to be the case for an operation that must pay $5.4 million in relief to consumers for allegedly mishandling credit reporting disputes and preventing individuals from exercising their debt collection rights. [More]
While some hospitals work to assist patients in paying their unexpected and often expensive medical bills, other institutions have been known to employ aggressive tactics that harshly penalize patients who are unable to pay their medical debts. However, the adoption of new federal rules aims to change the way in which non-profit hospitals handle consumers and their debts. [More]
Medical bills account for nearly half of all collections notices on consumers’ credit reports, affecting more than 43 million Americans. Meanwhile, it’s been shown that medical billing is fraught with errors and many consumers sent to collections for these debts are penalized too harshly. A new federal requirement hopes to reduce this overly negative impact of medical debt on credit reports. [More]
Making a trip to the doctor undoubtedly leaves many consumers’ wallets a little (or a lot) lighter. While some people going in for planned medical procedures might seek out doctors covered under their insurance to help alleviate out-of-pocket costs, a new report found that even with advances in medical policy consumers are feeling the burden of medical debt. [More]
Credit reporting behemoth FICO is making changes in the way it calculates credit scores. And for once, there’s some good news. The changes are expected to make it easier for most Americans to access credit — that is, to borrow money and take out loans — and will punish fewer consumers for incurring some debts that were out of their control.
Consider the following: 1-in-10 insurance claims are processed incorrectly; debt collectors are using account information that may be incomplete, inaccurate and out-of-date; once reported to a credit bureau, medical debt — whether real or erroneous — can do severe damage to your credit score. Perhaps it couldn’t hurt to give consumers a chance to challenge or resolve medical debts before collectors report them to the credit bureaus? [More]
Medical bills can be outrageously high, and usually there’s a direct relationship between the unexpectedness of a procedure and its cost. Sometimes, no financial planning in the world can forestall unforeseen medical expenses. Yet if any medical debt ends up on your credit report, it can remain there for up to seven years — even after you’ve paid it in full. That’s why a large coalition of advocacy groups have written Senate leadership asking them to consider the Medical Debt Relief Act. [More]
It’s a nightmarish scenario — you pay your credit card bills, car payments and loans all time, but when your credit report arrives… WHAM. Medical debt rears its ugly head and mucks up your life in a real way — even if you pay it. After hearing from one Consumerist reader who was shocked to discover a major dent in his credit score because of one $72 hospital bill, we asked for more stories from our readers to highlight what a very real problem this is.
This happens all too frequently: Someone with good credit suddenly incurs a large number of medical bills. Sometimes it’s too much money for the person to pay off in time, sometimes one bill will get overlooked and the debt is sent to collections. That person’s credit will now carry that stain for up to seven years. [More]