A person holds their phone up with the credit report on it.

How Do You Fix Credit Report Mistakes?

After a cancer diagnosis, ​​patients focus on getting a clean bill of health. But paying the bills that come with treatment can present another challenge. Not paying medical bills, or even paying bills late, can impact your financial health.

It’s important for people to understand how medical bills can impact their credit report and their credit scores. Your credit score often determines if you can get a loan, buy a house, rent an apartment, set up cable or internet in your home, or even get a job.

The blog explains why it is important to review your credit report, and to correct any mistakes that you find.

What is a Credit Report?

A credit report is comprised of various financial information about you. This includes your history of paying bills on time, personal credit history, lines of credit and loans, as well as any late payments, failure to pay, bills sent to collections, and bankruptcies. Three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), collect and update this information. Not all creditors report information to credit bureaus, but most nationwide chain store and bank credit cards, and loans, are included in credit reports.

Can Medical Bills Affect Your Credit?

Yes. In addition to depleting your bank account, medical bills can affect your credit if you don’t pay them on time.

Doctors and hospitals don’t report your payment history directly to the major credit bureaus, but they may send past-due bills to collection agencies. Those agencies may then report them to the credit bureaus.

Nearly 1-in-5 households in the United States report having some form of overdue medical debt. So, this is a common problem. Patients and their families are contacted by debt collectors about medical bills more than any other type of debt.

How Do You Protect Your Credit Score?

Here’s what you need to know to prevent medical bills from hurting your credit score.

  • Ask for your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each bureau. There are three ways that you may order a free annual credit report:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

The request will be processed, and your credit reports will be mailed to you within 15 days of receipt of your requests.

  • Know the rules on medical debt. The three credit reporting agencies have changed some key things on medical debt:
    • They will not give you a year to pay medical bills before they show up as unpaid debts on your credit report.
    • They will remove medical debt that has been paid from your credit report. Note: this removal may not be automatic; you may need to ask to have the debt removed from your credit report.
    • They will no longer include medical debt under $500 on your credit report.
  • Review your credit report. Once you have your credit report, review it carefully to ensure that all the information is accurate. Check for errors, such as incorrect personal information, accounts that don’t belong to you, and late payments that you made on time.

How Do You Fix Credit Report Mistakes?

If you find errors on your credit report, you need to dispute them with the credit bureau that provided the report. Each bureau has its dispute process. But, in general, you can dispute errors online, by phone, or by mail.

  • Provide any documentation that supports your claim.
    • If you previously had a medical debt under $500, a paid medical debt, or a medical debt less than a year old on your credit report, you can ask to have them removed.
    • Be aware, however, that this doesn’t include credit card collections, even if you used your credit card to pay for a medical expense under $500.
  • Follow up on disputes. After you file a dispute, the credit bureau has 30 days to investigate the claim and respond. If the bureau finds that there is an error, it must correct the information and notify all the other credit bureaus of the correction. It’s key to follow up with the bureau to ensure that the correction was made, in order to improve your credit score.
  • Monitor your credit report. Once you’ve corrected the errors on your credit report, you should continue to monitor your report regularly to ensure that the information remains accurate. You can also consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service that alerts you to any changes in your credit report. Some banks and credit cards offer this service for free.

Learn more about navigating cancer and finances.

About Triage Cancer

Triage Cancer is a national, nonprofit providing free education to people diagnosed with cancer, caregivers, and health care professionals on cancer-related legal and practical issues. Through eventsmaterials, and resources, Triage Cancer is dedicated to helping people move beyond diagnosis.

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