Credit report

Changes to the credit report are likely to improve scores. What there is to know

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Changes to medical collection debt reporting are expected to eliminate 70% of medical debt that appears on consumer credit reports, potentially increasing credit scores. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

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The nation’s three largest credit bureaus are changing the way they report medical debt, signaling an increase in some consumers’ credit scores.

As of July 1, the firms Experian, Equifax and TransUnion will omit medical debt which went to credit report collections once it was paid, according to a news release. The changes first announced in Marchis likely to erase nearly 70% of medical debt from people’s credit reports.

Previously, such a debt could be on a person’s file for up to seven years.

“We are committed to supporting the economic health of individuals and communities,” Mark W. Begor, CEO of Equifax; Brian Cassin, CEO of Experian; and Chris Cartwright, CEO of TransUnion, said in a joint statement. “Unforeseen expenses, like the cost of an unplanned medical visit, can be a hardship for many families.”

In addition, consumers will have more time to pay off their debt. They now have a year, instead of six months, before the unpaid medical debt appears on their credit report, the bureaus said. Medical debts “with an initial reported balance of less than $500” will also disappear from reporting starting in 2023.

“These changes will realign our approach to reporting medical collection debts in a way designed to help consumers focus on their personal well-being,” the CEOs concluded.

The agencies’ updated reports are a welcome change for consumers amid soaring inflation, interest rates and prices. In June, the The Federal Reserve raised rates three-quarters of a percent, increasing the cost of borrowing for a car, house, or other loan.

Eliminating medical debt improves the credit scores of millions of consumers and puts them in a better position to borrow.

“This is a wonderful initiative for consumers and for a long time“, Jeff Smedsrud, co-founder of HealthCare.com, told CNBC.

Credit expert and investor Jasmine “Jazzy Mac” McCall echoed that sentiment, telling Forbes that medical debt is often an unforeseen financial burden and “is not a true reflection a person’s willingness or ability to repay a debt.

About 1 in 10 American adults owe at least $250 in medical debt and millions owe more than $10,000, according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. In 2019 alone, Americans’ medical debt totaled around $195 billion.

The report, based on results from the 2020 Income and Program Participation Survey, found that black adults, middle-aged adults and those in poor health were more likely to have medical debt important than the others. The same was true for adults without medical insurance.

US Census Bureau data also shows about 19% of US households could not afford the medical billss at the front in 2017.

Tanasia is an Atlanta-based national real-time reporter covering Georgia, Mississippi, and the Southeastern United States. Its subsector is retail and consumer news. She is an alumnus of Kennesaw State University and joined McClatchy in 2020.