When you get a medical bill that you can’t pay right away, the first question that comes to mind is, how in the heck am I going to pay this too? Followed by: can this medical bill hurt my credit? The short answer is, “Yes, an unpaid medical bill can affect your credit.” But don’t panic just yet. Medical bills will affect your credit only when you leave them unpaid for too long. Continue reading to find out how medical bills affect your credit and what to do to protect your credit score.
How Unpaid Medical Bills Can Affect Your Credit
Overall, you have 180 days before an unpaid medical bill shows up on your credit report after it is turned over to a collection agency. Some medical providers will have non-paid accounts turned over to a collection agency and may or may not approve reporting to a credit bureau. Other healthcare businesses sell their unpaid debt to a collection agency at which time the collection agency determines if the account will be reported to the credit bureau. Prior to this, however, the majority of medical practices send patients up to three billing statements and call as part of their attempt to resolve the balance.
So you have ample time to settle your medical bill before it affects your credit. However, if you’re still unable to do so and the bill is listed on your credit report, it wouldn’t cause your credit score to plummet. Depending on the lender's scoring model, some treat medical bills less harshly meaning less of an impact on your credit score. Nevertheless, the minimal damage can still affect your life negatively.
What To Do To Prevent Medical Bills From Hurting Your Credit
According to The Commonwealth Fund’s recent survey, about 79 million people in the U.S. have medical debt. So, you’re not alone. Don’t panic pay with your high-interest credit card yet. Take the time to decide on your next steps - but not too much time. Do NOT ignore the medical bill and assume you can pay whenever it’s convenient for you. Or assume your insurance just hasn't taken care of it yet.
The best thing to do to prevent your medical bills from damaging your credit is to negotiate a convenient payment plan. Call your healthcare provider to inform them you can’t afford to pay the entire bill immediately and discuss a payment plan. You may even be able to negotiate an extended period before your bill will be sent to collections.
If there’s an insurance dispute with your account, ensure that you inform your healthcare provider, so they don’t submit your bill to collections. Generally, they will provide you with X number of days to get it resolved before taking the next step. But, if the bill goes to collections and your insurance company finally pays the bill, the credit reporting agencies will remove the unpaid bill from your credit report. As a safeguard, you may also want to contact the reporting agency and submit proof of payment with a request for removal.
Your credit score can impact your access to much-needed loans or credit lines. So, no matter what, don’t leave your medical bills unpaid. If there’s an issue with your medical bill that’s preventing you from settling it, such as an unexpected bill or denied claim, you should consider hiring a medical billing advocate.
MBCR understands the challenges in receiving a medical bill and successfully resolving a health insurance claim issue. Learn more at www.medicalbillandclaimresolution.com.