How to Deal With Medical Bills on Your Credit Report

How to Deal With Medical Bills on Your Credit Report

Medical debt on your credit report can be a real pain to get rid of. In order to develop a plan to remove medical debt from your credit report, it helps to understand why and how the debt got on your credit report in the first place. This type of debt on your credit report can be a serious problem — and is definitely something you’ll want to resolve. As you can see from the chart below, a single unpaid medical bill can drop your credit score by more than 75 points — and that spikes up to 100 if that bill hits collections.

Unpaid Medical Bills Impact on Credit Score

Type of Bill Typical Credit Score Drop
Unpaid medical bill 50 – 75 points
Unpaid medical bill in collections 80 – 100 points

Source: We surveyed 1,000 Americans with unpaid medical bills or a history of unpaid medical bills.

In fact, roughly 42.9 million Americans have some type of medical debt on their credit report — a number that grows larger each day. If you have found medical debt on your credit report, realize that you’re not alone. We’ll show you how to repair your credit score, even with medical debt.

Introduction

There are several different approaches to removing a medical debt from your credit report depending on the status of the account. Each individual situation is different, so you need to know your financial picture to understand what you’re working with before you try to fix things. Below are some rapid-fire quick tips that may help depending on your unique situation.

Why is Understanding Medical Debt Important?

Average Credit Score for Medical Debt Holders

Delinquent Charged Off Current
607 559 617

Source: We surveyed 1,000 Americans about their credit scores and their medical debt.

You can see from the chart above that the average credit score of someone who has a delinquent medical debt is 607. So, you’re not alone if you’re trying to find ways to improve your score by removing medical debt from your report. Take heart — there are ways to do exactly that.

Our goal is to help you. We’ll walk you through several ways that you have a medical debt removed from your report and also look at how this can impact your score and how long it can take to see results.

3 Steps to Remove Medical Debt from Your Credit Report

If a medical bill is in collections by mistake and it is having a negative effect on your credit score, you’re probably wondering if it can be removed — and, if so, how. If your bill is less than 180 days old, or if it has now been paid through insurance, you should be able to dispute the charge and have it removed from your report. Here are the steps to take:

1. Gather extensive evidence
Pull together as much information as you can to prove that the debt was paid. Request statements from your doctor’s office, go through cancelled checks, look back through your credit card statements… whatever it takes.

2. File your dispute
Next, you’ll want to file your dispute with every credit bureau that is reporting the error. Make sure that you check your report with all bureaus.

3. Continue communication
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit bureaus to follow up on any and all credit report error disputes. Continue to communicate with the bureaus to check on the status of your dispute, and be sure to provide any additional documentation that is requested.

Keep in mind that while there’s no guarantee that the debt will be removed from your credit report, it’s definitely worth your effort to try, since a poor credit score can have a number of negative impacts (not to mention be very expensive).

The Key Points: Medical Debt and Your Credit Report

Now that we touched on the quick-tips for removing a medical debt from your credit report, let’s dive a bit deeper.

Do Medical Bills Affect Your Credit Score?

Absolutely. While the latest incarnation of the FICO score — the FICO 9 — does not ding you for paid medical accounts, unpaid bills will certainly affect your score, particularly if they go to collections.

Average Credit Score Raise for Getting Medical Debt Removed

Delinquent Charged Off Current
30 – 60 points 25 – 50 points 10 – 15 points

Source: We surveyed 1,000 Americans about their credit scores and their medical debt.

How Long Do Medical Bills Stay on Your Credit Report?

Medical bill collections will remain on your report for seven years, as with most negative accounts. Like others, they should automatically be removed after the seven-year period is up. Keep in mind that even if you pay the account, it can stay on your credit report. That said, the newer scoring methods account for this, so there is still incentive for paying off the medical debt.

Medical bills stick with you a good long while when they haven’t been properly managed. Below are our findings on how long it takes these bills to get removed from each bureau’s report.

How Long it Takes for Medical Bills to Fall Off Your Credit Report

Experian TransUnion Equifax
7 years 7 years 7 years

Source: We surveyed 1,000 Americans about their medical bills and credit history.

What if the Medical Debt is There in Error?

If you discover an error or a paid medical account on your credit report:

    • Document the error: Make copies of your credit report as well as any relevant receipts and statements. You can request these from your doctor’s office if you don’t have them handy.
    • Contact the credit bureaus. Put your request in writing, making them aware of the errors and stating that you dispute the error.
    • Follow up. Don’t let your dispute go. Follow up every few weeks to make sure your request has been received, acknowledged, and acted upon. Remember, this is your financial well-being at risk.

While the most recent incarnation of the FICO score, the FICO 9, doesn’t penalize you for paid medical accounts, not everyone is using this version. If a particular entity is using the previous version — the FICO 8 — they will indeed penalize you for paid accounts. It’s a gamble not worth taking.

In terms of large unpaid medical debt that goes to collections, understand that this can ding your credit score as much as 100 points. Again, not a risk you want to take.

Different scores are affected differently by your medical debt. See below for more on this

How Medical Debt Affects FICO and VantageScore

Paid Medical Debt Collections Accounts
FICO Score Positive effect on score Differentiates between medical and non-medical debt
VantageScore Positive effect on score Differentiates between medical and non-medical debt

Source: We surveyed 1,000 Americans with medical debt about their FICO scores and their VantageScores.

What Happens When Medical Bills Go to Collections?

Medical offices usually report the debt to a debt collector. From there it goes to collections. Once your debt is in collections, your score is likely to suffer. That’s why you should stop on top of your medical bills before they go to collections — so that you don’t need to worry about this.

How Do I Stop Medical Bills from Going on My Credit Report?

Try negotiating with the medical office. From there you can establish a payment plan wherein you will pay in installments or pay the amount in one lump sum. Keep in mind that just because the medical debt is removed from one credit bureau, it’s not necessarily removed from others.

Benefits of Learning How to Remove Medical Debt From Your Credit Report

As noted earlier, medical debt on your credit report can ding your FICO score anywhere between 50 and 100 points. Getting rid of this debt also removes this risk, further bolstering your credit as you’re attempting to establish and maintain it. Read on to learn more.

Conclusion & Summary

Don’t let medical debt get the best of you or your credit report. As we have outlined, there are several steps you can take to get this debt removed from your report and prevent it from doing long-lasting damage to your financial picture.

In the meantime, remember to double-check your bills to make certain they are accurate, and pay your bills on time. This is definitely the best way to maintain and improve your credit, whether you’re dealing with medical or other types of bills. Good luck

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