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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB finds relationship between medical care assistance and debt collections

Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Medical Debt Debt Collection

Federal Issues

On August 24, the CFPB published a blog post exploring the connection between eligibility for financial assistance for medical care and the prevalence of medical collections. According to the Bureau, Americans spent $4.1 trillion on health care in 2020, and continue to incur significant medical expenses, despite private insurance coverage and government programs. The Bureau expects that number to reach $6.2 trillion by 2028. The Bureau found that as household incomes decrease, a higher percentage of consumers have medical collections. For example, the Bureau reported that of those with household earnings between $20,001 and $40,000 in 2018, consumers had at least one medical collection on their credit report. The Bureau also reported that among people in households with children and with incomes under $40,000, “38.1 percent had at least one medical collection on their credit report in December 2018,” which is approximately three times the rate for people without children earning the same amount. The Bureau noted that three nationwide credit reporting companies recently began removing paid medical collections from credit reports and will, starting in 2023, stop reporting medical collections below $500. However, the Bureau explained that many low-income consumers will not benefit from this change as their existing collections exceed $500, and therefore access to financial assistance continues to be important for such consumers. The Bureau concluded that more “research could explore the extent to which differences in legislative and regulatory environments influence the provision of financial assistance and lead to better financial outcomes for consumers.”

The same day, the Bureau announced that Director Rohit Chopra will host a virtual discussion to explore challenges around nursing home debt collection practices and the impact they can have on financial wellbeing on September 8. According to the Bureau, the discussion “is a chance for the CFPB to listen and learn about consumer advocates’ and individuals’ experiences with nursing home debt and debt collection practices.”