One of the best places to get good information about debt collection and other consumer issues is the website of the National Consumer Law Center. Found at https://www.nclc.org, the website contains links to a variety of articles about financial and legal problems faced by consumers. NCLC recently published an article on how consumers should deal with medical debt. Some of the highlights of the advice offered by NCLC include:
- Medical debt should usually be the lowest priority in repaying. Unlike most debts to credit card companies, banks, credit unions and others, medical debt does not typically result in late charges or even the accrual of interest. So the balance isn’t likely to grow, even if it isn’t being repaid.
- The credit reporting bureaus (Transunion, Equifax and Experian) won’t report medical debt on a credit report unless the debt is at least six months old. So again unlike other debts, delinquent medical debt isn’t going to immediately impact credit scores, giving consumers additional time to repay without consequences.
- Be cautious about obtaining one of the special medical credit cards frequently urged upon consumers by doctors and dentists. These credit cards often have high interest rates and unfavorable credit terms. By putting medical debt on one of these credit cards, consumers lose the advantages of paying medical providers directly.
- Nonprofit hospitals are required to have policies offering financial assistance to consumers who can’t pay bills. Once financial assistance has been sought by a consumer, the hospital can’t begin a debt collection lawsuit until the consumer’s eligibility for the assistance has been determined. The financial assistance should be applied for as soon as the consumer needs it since there’s a deadline on the application.
- No hospital can deny emergency services to a consumer, even if that consumer owes the hospital for a past due bill.
- Medicaid recipients can’t be denied services from a medical provider, even if the recipient owes for copays or deductibles.
- Hospitals and other medical providers are less likely to bring debt collection lawsuits than other creditors. If you’re repaying creditors, focus first on those debts that are secured by property you want to keep, carry interest and are more likely to sue.
If debts of any kind are too much to handle and you want to consider filing bankruptcy contact us. We can help give you a fresh start.