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How can I prevent medical debts from damaging my credit?

Recent federal legislation protects you from having hospital bills from Oregon or another state added to your credit report for six months. However, those debts can still be sent to collections if you do not pay them in full by the date specified, even if you are making regular payments. Unpaid medical debts damage your credit and remain on your report for seven years, even after you pay them off. To stop the process before your credit report is affected, you should know what your rights are when dealing with collection agencies attempting to collect on unpaid medical bills.

According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, after the first time the agency contacts you, it has five days to send you certain information about the debt. This includes the total of your original debt and the name of the creditor, as well as the following statements:

  • The debt is assumed to be valid unless you dispute the full or partial amount within 30 days of receiving the notice

  • You may notify the agency in writing within that 30 days to let them know you are disputing the debt or a portion of it

  • After your request, you will be provided with the original creditor’s name and address, if it is not the same as the current creditor

When you are contacted by a collection agency regarding a medical debt, you have the right to request verification of the amount stated if you believe it may be invalid or incorrect. Once you have requested verification, the collection activity must be suspended until you receive the information.

The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be taken as legal advice.

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