The ink on the proposal from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prohibit medical debts from being included on consumers’ credit reports — among other changes — is barely dry and already consumer advocates are pushing for more changes to be made in the area of medical debt, according to a published report.
The CFPB last week announced it was initiating a rulemaking proceeding with respect to the Fair Credit Reporting Act that will impact how medical debts are collected and included in consumers’ credit reports. If enacted, the rulemaking would prohibit credit reporting agencies from including medical debts on consumers’ credit reports, would prohibit creditors from including medical debt information when making credit underwriting decisions, and more.
But, according to consumer advocates, there is more that can be done to ease the medical debt burdens being borne by families and households across the country. Among the proposals mentioned in the report are:
- Ban hospitals from being allowed to place debts with collection agencies, or impose a minimum waiting time before that is allowed to happen
- Increase the scrutiny of not-for-profit hospitals, to ensure they are providing the appropriate amount of charity care and financial assistance to maintain their status
- Ban the use of medical credit cards, which are used specifically to pay for healthcare treatments and usually offer a period of deferred interest. The lack of flexibility and type of debt — these are technically credit card debts and not healthcare debts — hurt consumers more than they help, according to the report.
- Prohibit the denial of care if a patient has healthcare debts
- Eliminate medical debt altogether
For all the focus that will be paid to this rulemaking process, and rightfully so, it is important not to lose sight of efforts that may be taken at the state or federal level by other regulators or legislative bodies to address the medical debt burdens. Nobody wants individuals to be saddled with healthcare debts they either can’t afford to pay or that make it difficult for people to make ends meet, but blaming those that collect the debts for everything that is wrong with the system itself is like blaming restaurants for people being obese.