A recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reveals a notable decrease of 37 percent in medical collections tradelines between 2018 and 2022. Titled “Market Snapshot: An Update on Third-Party Debt Collections Tradelines Reporting,” the report highlights that medical debt now accounts for a majority (57 percent) of all collections on credit reports. This decline in medical debt reporting is attributed to several factors, including structural challenges in medical billing and collections, which pose risks for debt collectors in meeting their legal obligations.
The decline in furnishing medical debt data is linked to various structural issues that often lead to inaccurate information. Many debt collectors lack timely access to healthcare providers’ billing and payment records, making it difficult to verify the accuracy of medical bills they are collecting. Additionally, unpaid balances on medical bills can fluctuate due to insurance adjustments or financial assistance programs, further complicating the billing process. Recent media coverage and analysis of consumer complaints have also highlighted widespread errors in medical billing, underscoring the need for improved quality control.
When debt collectors furnish outdated or inaccurate data to credit reporting agencies, it can have serious repercussions for consumers and may violate consumer protection laws. These challenges contribute to higher dispute rates for medical bills and increase compliance risks for debt collectors. Consequently, some debt collectors are shifting away from reporting medical collections information to credit reporting companies due to concerns about data integrity and compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Inaccurate medical debt tradelines not only harm patients but also affect the overall consumer reporting ecosystem. Despite efforts to reduce the impact of medical debt on credit access, structural data integrity issues persist, posing challenges for both consumers and industry stakeholders. Debt collectors are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the debt they collect or furnish and addressing consumer disputes adequately to avoid legal violations.
As part of its ongoing efforts, the CFPB is closely monitoring medical billing and collections practices and assessing their impact on consumers. The bureau has conducted research, issued guidance, and analyzed industry changes to address the consumer harms associated with furnishing medical debt information. Moving forward, the CFPB will continue to examine the role of medical debt in the credit reporting system and the practices of debt collectors to ensure consumer protection and data integrity.