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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB reports on potential impacts of medical debt

Federal Issues CFPB Medical Debt Consumer Finance Credit Reporting Agency

Federal Issues

On July 27, the CFPB issued a report analyzing how actions announced by three national consumer reporting companies affect people who have allegedly unpaid medical debt on their credit reports. The report is a part of a CFPB series that examines consumer credit trends using a longitudinal sample of approximately five million de-identified credit records maintained by one of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies. According to the report, in March, the credit reporting companies announced voluntarily that they would no longer report certain medical collections. Specifically, starting July 1, 2022, the time before unpaid medical collections can appear on a consumer’s report will increase from 180 days to one year and paid medical collections will no longer appear at all.  In addition, sometime in 2023, medical collections with balances below a threshold of “at least” $500 will not appear on a consumer’s report. The Bureau’s report stated that “[t]hese changes have the potential to reduce the amount of medical debt reported on consumer credit reports and to benefit some consumers.” The report describes the characteristics of consumers with reported medical collections currently and provides a state-by-state breakout of how the credit reporting changes will impact consumers’ credit reports. Highlights of the report include: (i) consumers in Northern and Eastern states have higher concentrations of medical debt that are likely to be removed; (ii) consumers with medical debt are significantly more likely to reside in neighborhoods that majority Black or Hispanic and have lower median income, but consumers likely to have all their medical debt removed by the change are slightly more likely to live in neighborhoods that are majority white and higher income; and (iii) eliminating paid collections is less likely to have a substantial effect, as very few medical collection tradelines are ever marked paid.  The CFPB also noted that, due to the nature of the data, the report does not examine the impact of the extension of the time between referral of the medical bill for collections and the reporting of the bill from 180 days to one year.”

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