Medical malpractice causes more than just physical harm

Injuries from medical malpractice aren’t the only cause of  patients’ unjust suffering. An unpaid or past due medical bill on a credit report can also lead to serious financial trouble and economic challenges.

When an unpaid or past due bill is reported on someone’s credit report, his or her credit score will drop. A low credit score could affect one’s ability to be hired for certain jobs. And a low credit score could also make it difficult for someone to get a loan or car insurance at lower costs. While many consumers claim medical debt being added to their credit reports is unfair, the three major credit reporting agencies argue medical debt is an indicator of a person’s “credit worthiness” and ability to repay lenders.

Medical debt is different from other debt. Unlike a retail purchase, it isn’t incurred on a whim. Medical debt is accrued because of a medical need. Furthermore, medical debt involves a third party: the insurance company. When there’s a dispute regarding costs to be covered by insurance, this delays the bill being paid.

Additionally, when patients are injured by medical malpractice, they often incur medical debt and take legal action in order to recover compensation for their medical expenses. But this process can be lengthy, and unpaid bills could be reported on victims’ credit reports, causing further damage to victims of malpractice.

In response to this problematic issue, one college student sought support from a U.S. Representative several years ago. After doctors ordered a sleep study, her insurance company later refused to cover the costs, after first agreeing to pay for the study. Because the woman was unable to afford the $6,200 bill, the bill became delinquent and was reported on her credit report. Her story provoked members of Congress to seek changes to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, specifically to erase medical debt from credit reports.

The bill won approval in the House, but before the Senate could approve the bill, time ran out in the congressional session. However, the bill has since been reintroduced. If the bill is passed, medical debts could be removed from credit reports. Currently, unpaid debts remain on one’s credit report for up to seven years, even after a bill has finally been paid.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, “Incurable financial wounds plague many,” Mike Wagner and Jill Riepenhoff, Oct. 9, 2012

  • Our firm provides counsel to those who have been harmed by medical malpractice. To learn more about protecting your rights and obtaining compensation for your injuries resulting from medical negligence, please visit our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys page.