Why have medical debt collection complaints decreased?

As of Feb. 4, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaint portal showed the number of medical debt collection complaints began to dip after August 2015.

The data shows there were 591 complaints in August 2015, and that number fell to 456 in September, 436 in October and 386 in November. The number of complaints went back up to 423 in December 2015.

Rozanne Andersen, vice president and chief compliance officer at Ontario Systems, a software and services company focused on the healthcare industry, identified a couple of likely reasons for the decrease in complaints.

First, there is usually a lag when the CFPB publishes its data — particularly complaints with narratives — and complaints continue to come in for a few months after the fact, she said. Therefore, the number of complaints for the last few months of 2015 could still increase.

Ms. Andersen said the decrease could also be related to the credit bureaus' National Consumer Assistance Plan from March 2015, in which the credit bureaus agreed to wait 180 days before reporting medical debt information.

"The decrease in complaints could be an indication that this longer waiting period is positively impacting consumers," she added.  

While medical debt collection complaints have decreased since August 2015, they have overall increased about 35 percent since January 2014, according to the CFPB.


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