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Consumer Group Uses CFPB Complaint Data To Slam Medical Debt Collections

A consumer group has released a report, based on complaints filed by individuals with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, concluding that “medical debt collectors often employ aggressive tactics and attempt to collect debt from the wrong customers,” which is not at all incendiary.

Basing a report on complaints filed with the CFPB and nothing more is basically deciding whether to see a movie by reading the comments posted on YouTube trailers for the actual film. The complaints, as has been noted by ACA International, lack context and should not be taken as indicators of problems within an industry.

In this case, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, has issued a report, called “Medical Debt Malpractice,” that, among other claims, asserts:

  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of 17,701 complaints about medical debt collection reviewed in the report assert either that the debt was never owed in the first place, it was already paid or discharged in bankruptcy, or it was not verified as the consumer’s debt.
  • Many complaints document inappropriate and aggressive tactics including frequent or repeated calls, calls harassing friends and family, threats of legal action, or the use of abusive language.
  • Although impacts on credit reports are not categorized by the CFPB, they appear to be a significant source of complaints: 1,810 complaint narratives, or 35% of all medical complaint narratives submitted, contain the text “credit report.”

Not one to just point a finger at the problem, the report also makes several recommendations, including:

  • Stop debt collectors and buyers from collecting debts without proper information and documentation about the debt and records of prior communications with the consumer.
    Stop debt collectors from bringing robo-signed cases in court.
  • Crack down on widespread use of threats, harassment and embarrassment in debt collection, and make it easier for the consumer to demand a stop to unwanted communications.
  • Protect servicemembers by strictly limiting contact with their commanders to verifications of address.

A full version of the report is available here.

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