Rohit Chopra, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, reiterated last week that the Bureau is looking for “ways we can reduce the stress of medical debt and coercive credit reporting,” during a speech to revenue cycle managers at an industry conference. Chopra called on those in the audience to share any “concerning patterns” that they identify with respect to billing and debt collection practices and any credit-based repayment programs that they offer.
Using data from consumer complaints filed with the CFPB, Chopra said the “significant concerns about the accuracy of medical bills being collected has debts” have been raised and that “debt collectors contact consumers over bills that have already been paid or resolved.” By reporting those debts to the credit reporting agencies, consumers are being coerced into paying them, or face the prospect of having their “credit ruined,” Chopra said.
Chopra’s speech was made on the same day the CFPB released a report about medical credit cards, expressing concern that healthcare facilities were steering consumers toward the product, when they may be eligible for financial assistance or charity care.
Looking at the decision by the credit reporting agencies to remove medical debts under $500 from consumers’ credit reports, Chopra said the move was “a step in the right direction,” but that it will not “greatly reduce the overall effect of medical bills on the rate of personal bankruptcy.”
Removing medical debt from credit reports isn’t going to help consumers and it’s not going to help healthcare organizations. The root cause is the debt itself. That’s where the efforts should be focused.