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Legislators calling for change to medical debt laws

Medical debt is one of the largest financial issues that Oregon residents face. According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one quarter of families are burdened by their medical debts. Additionally, 16 percent of families have difficulty paying at least one medical bill and another 10 percent are unable to pay their medical bills at all. These types of debts can have long-term consequences for the financial health of those who are unable to pay them, causing many people years of stress and negative marks on their credit scores. When a person’s credit score is marked down due to unpaid medical bills, it can have further implications for finding and keeping a job, getting approved for housing or getting the resources to pay for transportation.

A new bill that was recently introduced by Oregon U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and four other senators may change how medical debt is recorded by credit bureaus in favor of patients.  Under the new law, the consumer protections that were adopted by the three national credit bureaus in a 2015 settlement would become permanent. This includes the requirements for credit reporting agencies to wait at least 180 days before reporting unpaid medical bills, and the removal of any debts paid by an insurance company after they were added to credit reports.

However, the major provision of the bill is the requirement that any medical debt that is settled or paid off would quickly be removed from patients’ credit reports, preventing the debts from continuing to negatively affect them when the debts are no longer an issue. Sen Merkley believes that this approach to unpaid medical bills better reflects the nature of the type of debt, which most people have no choice but to pay.

Families may have resources they can use to help them overcome their unpaid medical bills. Those who are struggling to pay these debts may find that it is beneficial to speak with an attorney who can assist them in deciding how to proceed.

Source: Jeff Merkley United States Senator For Oregon, “Merkley, Durbin, Blumenthal, Menendez, Schumer Introduce Medical Debt Relief Act,” Feb. 25, 2016.

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