Your medical history is certainly not part of a credit report, but past due medical debts can affect your credit reports and credit scores if a doctor or hospital hires a medical debt collection agency to pursue payments.
A sickness, illness or surgery can result in unexpected and unplanned medical bills. While health insurance may help, many people still struggle to pay medical bills while trying to put food on the table.
As of Sept. 15, 2017 the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) employ a 180-day waiting period before medical debt appears in a credit history. This six-month grace period is designed to give you time to correct any errors on your bill, pay the bill or get your insurance company to pay it, figure out a payment plan or otherwise resolve the problem.
Medical debts are given less weight: Newer scoring models weight medical collections less than other types of collections so that they don’t impact a score as much. However, not all creditors use these new scoring models, so medical collections could still hurt your credit.
When you receive your bill, be sure to examine it carefully and compare it with the explanation of benefits provided by your health insurance provider. If you believe you've found an error, contact your medical provider or health insurance company.
If you’re facing mounting medical expenses, here are some things you may want to consider that may help prevent medical bills from appearing on credit reports:
Contact your health insurance company. Know your coverage and follow up to ensure the company is paying costs it has agreed to cover.
Negotiate with your health provider. If you can’t afford to pay a bill, try to work with your medical provider to reduce the amount owed or set up a payment plan.
If you believe medical debt has been listed on your credit report erroneously, contact the medical provider or collection agency first. You can also file a dispute with the three major credit bureaus.
If possible, prepare for medical procedures in advance by finding out what your insurance will cover and what costs you’ll be responsible for.
It’s always a good idea to regularly review your credit reports to ensure the information is accurate and complete. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every 12 months.