Pay medical bills, protect credit
NEW YORK (5/15/12)--Figuring what you owe on a medical bill can be confusing at best. You wait for your insurance provider's explanation of benefits, wait for the bill, and try to figure out what part--if any--is your responsibility. The wait can be months, and by that time the "unpaid" bill may already have tarnished your credit score (NYTimes.com May 4).
Even consumers with good insurance coverage can have trouble figuring out what they owe after a visit to a doctor's office or emergency room--which can generate multiple bills. And as consumers become responsible for more medical-associated costs, billing gets more complex. In 2010 alone, collection agencies contacted 30 million individuals because of unpaid medical bills, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group.
People often don't realize their credit has been stained until they want to obtain or refinance a mortgage. A scarred score can mean having to pay big bucks--often thousands of dollars more than someone with good credit would pay--in a higher interest rate. People with formerly spotless credit histories could see their scores drop by 100 points or more if unpaid medical bills show up on their reports.
Avoid medical bill missteps by keeping a close eye on your credit report and being proactive in credit matters, suggests PrivacyMatters.com:
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