The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has reported that 15 million Americans still have medical bills on their credit reports. The finding comes despite changes by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The 15 million Americans disproportionately live in the South and low-income communities.

Collectively, they have more than $49bn in outstanding medical bills in collections. This is the CFPB’s second analysis of the changes made by the three national credit reporting companies to reduce the number of medical bills on credit reports. The CFPB proposes to consider options to restrict the reporting of allegedly unpaid medical bills on credit reports.

CFPB research highlights need for further reforms

“Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion took steps to remove many medical bills in part because of the recognition that they hold little predictive value,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “Findings from our latest research reveal the impact of these changes and the need for further reforms.”

In March 2022, CFPB research revealed an estimated $88bn in medical bills on Americans’ credit reports. Following that study, the three nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – announced they would no longer report certain medical bills in collections.

The companies announced they would increase the time before medical bills in collections can appear on credit reports, from 180 days to one year. Second, the companies would stop reporting medical bills that had been in collections but were resolved. Third, the companies would remove medical bills below $500 from credit reports.

The CFPB reports that the number of people with medical bills in collections on their credit reports has declined. As of June 2023, about 5% of Americans had unpaid medical bills on their credit reports. This is down from 14% in March 2022. Older Americans saw the largest improvement. 8.4% of older Americans had medical bills on their credit reports in March 2022 compared to below 3% in June 2023.

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