Do Medical Bills Affect Credit Score?

If you were sick and had to go to a hospital, you probably received a heft medical bill. Healthcare in the United States is extremely expensive, especially if you don't have healthcare insurance. That said, can medical bills affect your credit score? We will answer this question in much detail below.

Do Medical Bills Affect Credit Score?

Although merely receiving a medical bill will not affect your credit score, if you fail to pay your medical bill, your failure to pay it may affect your credit score. Failure to pay your medical bill can affect your credit score because medical providers often sell unpaid medical bill debt to collection agencies. Collection agencies will then add a collection account to your credit report, which can and probably will cause significant damage to your credit score.

Each medical provider is different. Some medical providers will sell your unpaid medical bill debt to a collection agency after it becomes 60 days, 90 days, or 120 days past due. After your medical provider sells your medical bill debt, the collection agency will then attempt to collect the unpaid debt from you. In most cases, the collection agency will place a collection account on your credit report.

Collection accounts are derogatory items that can significantly lower your credit score, especially if you had an excellent credit score to start off with. The higher your credit score, the bigger the point drop will be.

Once a collection account has been added to your credit report, it will remain on there for 7 years from the date that you became delinquent on paying your medical debt. For example, if you failed to pay your bill on January 1st, 2020, the collection account will remain on your credit report until January 1st, 2027.

After the 7 year period, the collection account will automatically be removed from your credit report, no longer lowering your credit score. When a collection account is added to your credit report, it will cause the biggest drop in your credit score when it's first added. That said, as the collection account ages, its impact on your credit score will begin to lessen until it's eventually removed from your credit report.

180 Day Waiting Period

The credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian) have put into place a 180 day waiting period before medical bills and medical debt can be placed on your credit report. This gives consumers 180 days during which to settle their medical debt before it's added to their credit report, causing significant damage to their credit score.

So, if you have a medical bill that you need to pay, negotiate with your medical provider, or send to your insurance provider, you now have 180 days (6 months) to make the payment before negative items will be placed on your credit report.

You should take medical bill collection accounts seriously as they can cause serious damage to your credit score. The higher your credit score, the more damage a collection account can cause. So, make sure to take car of your medical bills to prevent them from being sent to collections and causing damage to your credit.

How Long Can a Medical Bill Affect Your Credit Score For?

As previously mentioned, if your medical bills are sent to a collection agency, the collection agency will place a collection account on your credit report. Any collections account, including a medical bill collections accounts, will remain on your credit report from the date that you first became late or delinquent on making your payment. After the 7 year period ends, the collection account will automatically be removed from your credit report.

If for any reason, a collection account remains on your credit report for more than 7 years from the date of delinquency, you can have it removed by either contacting the collection agency reporting the collection account or by filing a dispute with the credit reporting bureau showing the delinquent account. If you file a dispute with the credit reporting agency, they will conduct an investigation to determine whether the collection account should be removed, and they will either then conclude that it should be removed or should remain on your credit report. If the collection account has been on your credit report for more than 7 years, they will likely remove it from your credit report.

How to Get a Medical Collections Account Off Of Your Credit Report?

If the medical bill debt that you owe is valid, it is very difficult to have a medical collection account removed from your credit report unless there is inaccurate or incorrect information being reported. If there is anything inaccurate being reported, you can have the collection account by filing a dispute with the credit reporting agencies displaying the incorrect information. Also, you have the option of contacting the collection agency directly and asking them to remove the inaccurate information from your credit report.

We often get asked whether paying a medical bill collection account will remove it from your credit report, and the truth is that paying a collection account will not remove it from your credit report. That said, paying a collection account will prevent the collection agency from continually calling you and contacting you to pay the outstanding debt, and from the collection account being sold to a different collection agency.

Also, when it comes to your credit score, paying a collection account will not improve your credit score. A paid and unpaid collection account have the same impact on your credit score. Also, paying a collection account does not remove it from your credit report. However, paying a collection account prevents it from being sold to another collection agency, which will then attempt to collect the debt from you.

So, if you want to prevent further damage to your credit, you should contact the collection agency that owns the debt and negotiate to pay a lower payment or negotiate a payment plan.

How to Know If Unpaid Medical Bills Are On Your Credit Report?

If you have unpaid medical bills and are wondering whether the debt has been sold to a collection agency, you should check your credit report. Most collection agencies will report the collection account to either one or more of the credit reporting bureaus. So, pull a copy of your credit report and examine it to see whether a collection account has been added. Most credit reports have a section that displays any collection accounts that are on your credit report. There are a ton of free options that allow you to check your credit report for free. For example, Credit Karma allows you to check your Transunion and Equifax Credit Reports for free. You can also check your Experian credit report for free by visiting their website and signing up for a free account.

How to Keep Medical Bills From Negatively Affecting Your Credit Score?

Don't Ignore Medical Bills

The best thing that you can do to prevent medical bills from negatively impacting your credit score is to pay attention to and address any bills that you receive from medical providers. People often ignore medical bills believing that the medical provider will just continue to send out statements. They do not know that most medical providers will sell the unpaid medical bill debt to a collections agency.

Once a medical bill is sold to collection agency, the collection agency will report a collection account to the credit reporting bureau, causing significant damage to your credit score. So, contact your medical provider and ask for a payment plan or a reduction in the amount of money that you owe. You will be surprised by how many medical providers will be willing to work with you to recoup the amount of money that you owe them.

Review Your Medical Charges

Whenever you get a medical bill, you should review the medical billing statement to determine that the procedures and items you were charged for are accurate. If you believe that you were charged for something that does not belong to you, you should simply ignore the statement. Instead, you should contact your medical provider and bring any incorrect or inaccurate items to their attention.

Negotiate Your Medical Charges

If you did not negotiate your medical charges before medical treatment, you should contact your medical provider and ask them to reduce the charges for medical services. Many medical providers are willing to work with patients who are paying out of pocket. Some medical providers will even offer to place you on a payment plan to reduce the financial burden on you. Negotiating your medical charges and agreeing to settle your bill is the best way to prevent your medical debt from being sent to collections and damage to your credit.

Periodically Check Your Credit Report

Whether you have unpaid medical bill or not, you should make it a habit to periodically check your credit report. When you check your credit report, look to see if there is any negative information being reported to the credit reporting bureaus. If you find a collection account or any negative information, contact the creditor to verify the validity of the information being reported. Oftentimes, medical bills get delivered to the wrong address. If this happens, you could find a collection account on your credit report. So, it's best to periodically check your credit and address any negative items that you may find on it.

Credit Score Planet Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I get medical bills off my credit report?

Once a collection account is added to your credit report because of an unpaid medical bill, it is very difficult to have the collection account removed from your credit absent inaccurate or incorrect information in the collection account reported. You can try disputing the collection account, but if it's valid, it will likely remain on your credit report for 7 years. Another option that you have is to contact the collection agency and negotiate with them. Ask them for the option to pay the bill and have the collection account removed from your credit report. Some collection agencies will agree while others will refuse to do so.

2. Do medical bills go off your credit report after 7 years?

Yes, unpaid medical bills that are sent to collections will remain on your credit report for 7 years from the date you first failed to pay the medical bill. After the 7 year period, the collection account will automatically be removed from your credit report.

3. How do medical bills hurt your credit?

Medical bills alone do not hurt your credit score. In fact not paying them does not hurt your credit score. However, if medical bills are left unpaid for a long time, your medical provider or hospital may sell the unpaid medical bill debt to a collection agency. The collection agency can then damage your credit score by adding a collection account to your credit report.

4. Can you negotiate medical or hospital bills in collections?

Yes, you can always negotiate with the collection agency handling your unpaid hospital or medical debt. In fact, collection agencies often purchase medical debt for a fraction of the amount owed, making negotiating an option for you.


Can You Go To Jail For Not Paying Medical Bills?

If you're like millions of Americans, you probably had an emergency or medical condition that needed attention and so you went to a hospital for treatment. After leaving the hospital, you may have received a very pricey medical bill. So, can you go to jail if you do not pay your medical bill? We will answer this question in much detail below.

Can You Go To Jail For Not Paying Medical Bills?

No, you cannot go to jail for merely not paying medical bills because medical bills are considered as a civil debt and you cannot be sent to jail for failing to pay a civil debt. The only two debts that you can go to jail for not paying are your tax payments and child support payments. However, if the amount of medical bills that you owe is very large, the hospital that you went to has the option of filing a lawsuit against or selling the debt to a debt collector who may sue you in civil court to recoup the debt owed in the form of unpaid medical bills.

Although you cannot be sent to jail for merely not paying medical bills, aggressive debt collectors have tactics that they can use to put you in jail, and we will explain them below.

In some states, debt collectors are trying to put people in jail by suing them in civil court for the outstanding medical bill debt that they owe. After suing you in civil court, you are given an opportunity to appear in civil court to dispute the debt that you owe.

If you do not appear in court, a civil judgment will be entered against you, allowing the debtor to request to garnish your wages (take money from your paycheck without your consent). However, if you do not have income, debt collectors have been known to request a debtor's examination.

If the court order you to attend a debtor examination's hearing and you do not show up, you can be arrested for failing to obey a court order. So, although you cannot go to jail for not paying medical bills, you can go to jail for violating a court order to appear for a debtor's examination.

To avoid going to jail, attend the debtor examination's hearing, and defend yourself. Also, if you're summoned into civil court because the hospital itself sued you for unpaid medical bills or a collection agency sued you for the unpaid bills, you should answer the summons. Ignoring a court summons will only land you in more trouble. If you have the resources, hire an attorney to represent you for the best possible results.

Summary of What Can Happen If You Don't Pay Your Medical Bills

  1. Your outstanding medical bills can be sold to a collection agency
  2. You may have to pay interest on the unpaid medical bill debt
  3. Your credit score could be significantly damaged if the debt is reported on your credit report
  4. You can be sued for the unpaid medical debt
  5. Your wages can be garnished until your medical bills are paid

How to Handle Medical Bills That Have Been Sent to Collections?

If you did not pay your medical bills, the hospital that you went to may sell the unpaid debt that you owe them to a collection agency. A collection agency will then try to collect the debt from you by relentlessly calling you and placing a collection account on your credit report.

A collection account can cause significant damage to your credit score, often causing a drop of up to 100 points.

If your medical bills have been sent to collections, you should verify the items you have been charged for and ask the collection agency to verify the charges in writing so that you have a record of the debt they're attempting to collect.

If you believe that you've been overcharged for certain items when you went to the hospital, you should contact an experienced medical debt defense attorney or service provider to deal with the collection agency on your behalf.

The right attorney or debt defense service provider may be able to have the amount of money that you owe drastically reduced. Medical debt and health insurance laws are very complicated, so having someone on your side who knows the system will be greatly beneficial to you.

Can A Hospital or Medical Provider Threaten You With Jail If You Do Not Pay Your Medical Bills?

Federal law and most states have laws in place that prohibit hospitals and medical providers from threatening you with jail or criminal prosecution if you do not pay your medical bills as agreed. So, if a debt collector calls you and threatens to prosecute you, you should report it to your State's Attorney General.

However, do not forget that although you cannot be sued for failing pay a medical or hospital bill, if you're sued in civil court and you're ordered to show up in court, you should not ignore the court order as this may result in an arrest warrant being issued for you and you being sent to jail.

So, to avoid going to jail, don't ignore the collection attempts, talk to your medical provider or collection agency and ask them about payment options. If you believe that you have been wrongfully billed for items, you should bring that to their attention and ask them for a reduction.

What Should You Do If You Have Unpaid Medical Bills?

If you have unpaid medical bills, you should do the following:

  • Do not ignore the medical provider or collection agency if they contact you
  • Do not ignore court notices
  • Do not ignore court orders to attend hearings
  • Consult with an attorney and ask them how to proceed
  • If your medical debt is too large, consult with an attorney about filing for bankruptcy

Statute of Limitations For Being Sued For Medical Debt

Usually, the time that a medical provider or collection agency has to file a lawsuit against you for failing to pay your medical bills is limited from 3 to 6 years. Every state has a different statute of limitations (SOL) barring lawsuits. So, if you want to know if the statute of limitations bars your medical providers from filing a lawsuit against you, you should check your locals laws.

That said, even though the statute of limitations may bar medical providers or collection agencies from collecting debt, this may not stop the medical provider and collection agency from constantly calling you and mailing letters, attempting to collect the debt that you owe.

Credit Score Planet Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you go to jail for medical bill debt?

No, you will not go to jail for merely failing to pay medical bill debt. However, if you're sued and ordered to go to court, you could be sent to jail if you violate the court order by failing to appear.

2. Can I settle a medical bill after I receive a court summons?

Yes, you can settle a medical bill at almost any time so long as the other party is willing to settle the debt.

3. Can a hospital sue you for unpaid medical bills?

Yes, a hospital or any other medical provider can sue you for failing to pay your medical bills. If they're successful in their lawsuit, they may be able to garnish your wages until they've recouped the amount of money that you owe them.

4. What happens if you don't pay medical bills?

If you don't pay your medical bills, your debt may be sold to a collection agency or you may be sued by the medical provider for the balance that you owe. If your debt is sold to a collection agency, the collection agency will attempt to collect the debt from you and they may place a collection account on your credit report, which could cause significant damage to your credit score.

5. Should I pay medical bills in collections?

Paying debt is always preferred over not paying. However, if a collection account was placed on your credit report, whether you pay it or not, it will continue to negatively impact your credit score.

6. How can I get my medical bills off my credit?

Once a collection account for a medical bill is added to your credit report, it cannot be removed unless there is inaccurate or incorrect information being reported. Once a collection account is added to your credit report, it will remain on your report for seven years from the date that you became delinquent on making payments.

7. What happens if my medical bills go to collections?

If your medical bill goes to collections, the collection agency will relentlessly attempt to collect the debt from you and they will place a collection account on your credit report, causing significant damage to your credit score.