RELIEF! No Surprises Act Offers Consumers Freedom from Certain Medical Debt

Consumer Bureau Issues Bulletin to Debt Collectors

Andy Spears


Photo by Josefa nDiaz on Unsplash

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today issued a bulletin reminding debt collectors and credit bureaus of the “No Surprises Act” and its implications for certain medical debt.

Because of the new law, consumers are not obligated to pay medical debt resulting from so-called “surprise billing.” The move is designed to encourage healthcare providers to take steps to prevent surprise out-of-network bills resulting from medical procedures.

Consumer advocates applauded the bulletin from the CFPB.

“Now that the federal No Surprises Act has taken effect, debt collectors, consumer reporting agencies, and others involved with medical debt collection and credit reporting must ensure that they do not pursue consumers for debts that fall under the Act’s protections,” said Jenifer Bosco, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “The No Surprises Act provides long-awaited protections from surprise medical bills, shielding consumers from disputes between health care providers and insurance companies.”

“Medical debt is a large portion of all the accounts being collected by collection agencies,” said April Kuehnhoff, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “This bulletin sends a message to debt collectors that before they attempt to collect or report medical debt, they must make sure the debt is legitimate.”

“The CFPB has taken a critical step to protect the financial health of consumers,” said Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “This continues CFPB’s streak of issuing guidance and reports that focus on credit and consumer reporting issues to protect American consumers.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19% of all US households had medical debt in 2017. In the second quarter of 2018, the CFPB reported that healthcare debt made up 58% of third-party collections tradelines, and in 2021, TransUnion reported that 49% of all outstanding collection balances were related to healthcare and medical debt.

The reminder on medical debt comes as credit bureaus are facing increased scrutiny for their practices.

Consumer Advocates Call for Reform of Credit Bureaus | by Andy Spears | Jan, 2022 | Medium



Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .