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Proposed law would help with medical debt issues

If the Medical Debt Responsibility Act becomes law, it would require all past due medical debt that is paid or settled to be removed from an individual's credit report within 45 days. Under current rules, a medical debt of an Ohio resident that is paid or settled after it was reported will stay on a credit report for seven years even if there is a zero balance.

This can create problems for those who may not know that they have a medical bill that is past due. One example comes from a 67-year-old man who didn't know about a $640 debt that was unresolved until a collections agency called pursuing it. Although he claims that the debt was taken care of, the hospital where he was treated says that the debt was never paid and was still valid for collection.

For those who cannot afford to take pay a hospital bill or other medical bills, it may be possible to negotiate a settlement with the provider. Either a payment plan can be arranged or it may be possible for the provider to use an internal charity program to pay for the debt. In the latter scenario, the debtor has the debt waived and is no longer responsible for paying it.

Medical debt can have a lasting impact on a person's credit history and score. Often, people think that their debt has been paid when it has instead been sent to collections. Those who have been contacted by a collection agency or see a medical bill on their credit report may wish to contact an attorney for help resolving the debt if contacting the collection agency or their health care provider does not provide any tangible relief.

Source: The Roanoke Times, "Medical debt on credit reports often difficult to remove", Tim Grant, June 29, 2014

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