Do medical debts ever go away?

It takes seven years for medical debt to disappear from your credit report. And even then, debt never really goes away. If you've had a recent hospital stay or an unpleasant visit to the doctor, it's likely that the last thing you want to do is worry about credit bureaus. The short answer is that medical debt may disappear from your credit report after seven years, but that doesn't mean you're problem-free.

However, it does have a statute of limitations, but it works differently than you think. Companies can try to collect medical debt practically forever. Although old debts are easier to escape in court, little prevents collectors from trying to collect them. Only Wisconsin, North Carolina and Mississippi settle certain debts once the statute of limitations has passed.

Medical bills are more likely to affect your credit if they are not paid for many months and transferred to collections. From now on, paid and unpaid debts for medical collections generally remain on your credit history for seven years after being reported. Some 23 million people, or nearly 1 in 10 adults, have significant medical debt, according to a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Medical debt is unique among consumer debts, as it is rarely contracted voluntarily and sometimes not even when the debtor is conscious.

Beginning July 1, debts paid for medical collections will no longer be included in the consumer credit reports of the three credit bureaus. Last week, the three major credit bureaus announced significant changes in how medical debt will affect Americans' credit scores. We'll explain what you need to know, including when agencies will eliminate debt and who will be affected. If you have a medical debt that has already been collected, make sure that the debt collector has not added additional charges to your total due.

According to credit bureaus, about 70 percent of medical debt will be removed from Americans' credit reports once the aforementioned changes take effect. Unpaid medical debts are usually released to a collection agency after 60 to 120 days of delinquency. In addition, unpaid medical bills will not appear on credit reports unless they have been in collections for at least one year (compared to the current six months). Most healthcare providers don't report to the three credit bureaus nationwide (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), which means that most medical debts are not usually included in credit reports and generally don't take credit ratings into account.

Host a fundraiser with a crowdfunding site like GiveForward to get help with your bills from family, friends and strangers, although it's not a safe way to pay off your medical debt. The offices made these decisions after a medical debt review revealed that, for most people, the debt was the result of a single or emergency event. The burden worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, as unemployment numbers increased and the virus placed additional pressure on healthcare and consumer costs. When they do, there is a six-month waiting period before unpaid medical debt appears on their credit reports.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are eliminating billions of dollars in medical debt from credit reports.

Angie Licata
Angie Licata

Award-winning zombie evangelist. Proud pizza advocate. General zombie practitioner. Tvaholic. Award-winning travel maven.

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