News 4 Investigates: Medical debt's impact on your credit score

 

(KMOV.com) - Did you know one unpaid medical bill can have a terrible impact on your credit?

In the United States, you can’t be sent to jail for unpaid medical debt, but its effects can feel like punishment.

According to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, “The number one reason for personal bankruptcy, medical bills.”

That’s why he’s co-sponsoring The Medical Debt Relief Act.

He says the difference between medical debt and credit card or loan debt is that medical debt is unexpected.

“Someone slips and falls next thing you know you have a $10,000 bill you never anticipated,” said Sen. Durbin.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 43 million Americans have overdue medical debt on their credit reports.

But there is some relief on the way. The three big credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion have a new policy: Medical debt won't impact your credit for at least 180 days.

But Sen. Durbin wants more than a policy, the wants the six-month waiting period to become law.

Durbin said that would give “people some breathing space.”

The legislation would also ensure any medical debts that are paid in full would be promptly removed from an individual’s credit report. Durbin says sometimes those debts linger and that can cause unnecessary harm.

News 4’s series of stories on medical debt began with our donation to the non-profit RIP Medical Debt.

For $12,500, KMOV was able to help pay more than $1 million in medical debt for 512 people in the St. Louis region.

Those people all received a letter from RIP Medical Debt showing their debt was no longer due.

If you or someone you know received one of those letters, please email us at MyMedicalDebt@kmov.com or call 314-444-3370.

Copyright 2018 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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