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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB launches medical-debt inquiry with HHS and Treasury

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues CFPB Department of Health and Human Services Department of Treasury Credit Cards Consumer Finance Installment Loans

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

On July 7, the CFPB, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Treasury Department announced they are looking into high-cost specialty financial products such as medical credit cards and installment loans used by patients to pay for health care. These products, the agencies explained, were once primarily used to pay for medical treatments not traditionally covered by health insurance but may now be more widely used even when medical care may be covered by insurance or financial assistance. The agencies released a request for information (RFI) seeking feedback on a range of topics, including costs associated with medical payment products, how prevalent the products are, health care providers’ incentives to offer these products to patients, and whether patients fully understand the risks and consequences associated with medical payment products.

Specifically, the agencies are soliciting comments “on whether these products may allow health care providers to operate outside of a broad range of patient and consumer protections.” Feedback is also requested on whether use of these products is contributing to health care cost inflation, displacing hospitals’ provision of financial assistance, causing patients to pay inaccurate or inflated medical bills, increasing the amount patients must pay due to financing costs, or otherwise contributing to consumer harm, including through downstream credit reporting and debt collection practices. The agencies also want to know if using these products is creating disparities across different demographic groups, as well as policy options to protect consumers from harm.

The agencies commented that the RFI will assist in their understanding of consumer harms and financial challenges caused by specialty medical payment products and will serve to guide next steps, including future Bureau actions focusing on credit origination, debt collection, and credit reporting practices of the financial companies that originate and service these products.

Comments on the RFI are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.

Additionally, the Bureau is hosting a hearing on July 11 to address medical billing and collection concerns with a focus on medical payment products.