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July 20, 2024 1:09 pm

National News

New Biden administration rule would ban medical debt from credit reports


Darreonna Davis

Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday announced a new effort to ban medical debt from credit reports, something that would ease a burden that falls most heavily on women and Black people. 

“Medical debt makes it more difficult for millions of Americans to be approved for a car loan, a home loan or a small business loan, all of which in turn makes it more difficult to just get by, much less get ahead, and that is simply not fair. Especially when we know that people with medical debt are no less likely to repay a loan than those without medical debt,” Harris said. “No one should be denied access to economic opportunity simply because they experienced a medical emergency.”

Federal efforts to remove medical debt from credit reports began last fall after Harris announced that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) would take the first steps to create rules that would take medical bills off credit reports, prohibit creditors from using medical bills to make underwriting decisions and ban collectors from using medical debt to pressure consumers to make payments. These proposals would narrow the 2005 exemption in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which allowed creditors to use medical debts in underwriting credit decisions. Creditors would still have the ability to access medical debts and bill information in certain instances, such as to evaluate loan applications for medical services.

Other federal efforts to curb medical debt include the No Surprises Act, which took effect in July 2022 and requires private health insurers to cover most emergency services, emergency care and non-emergency in-network services and prohibits medical providers from billing patients more than in-network cost sharing.

The rule change could lead to more people being able to borrow money, as CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said it would give lenders more accurate and predictive information about borrowers.

“The 15 million Americans who would benefit from this credit reporting change would see their scores rise by an average of 20 points. … For mortgages alone, we estimate that this could lead to approximately 22,000 additional home loans each year,” he said. “Our action today is an important step toward reducing some of the unnecessary costs of getting sick in America.”

According to a senior administration official, this rule would include historical medical bill information and dental debt.

Other federal efforts to curb medical debt include the No Surprises Act, which took effect in July 2022 and prohibits surprise billing for most emergency services and non-emergency services done out-of-network.

This story is republished from the 19th under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.