The U.S. Government Accountability Office has issued a report on medical credit cards and related products following a request from several legislators concerned about medical debt and predatory lending practices against people who are uninsured or underinsured.
Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as well as Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) requested the report in 2013 after hearing concerns that consumers may have been misled by financial institutions offering medical credit cards and related products, including installment loans. The GAO’s report reviews financing options and interest rates charged to consumers who use credit cards for medical expenses outside of their insurance coverage.
“Medical debt already is an unbearable burden for millions of Americans,” Markey said. “Consumers may believe they are on a path toward physical wellness when these financial products are often leading them toward financial ruin.” Additional legislative efforts have occurred recently to address the level of medical debt in the U.S. Waters has introduced legislation that would require consumer reporting agencies to remove any information related to fully paid or settled medical debt from a consumer’s credit report within 45 days.
Waters also called on House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) to hold a hearing on the issue and her proposed legislation, which has not occurred. “We need to take a close look at the issue of medical credit cards, and this report is a good first step,” Waters said. ACA International has worked on this issue as well through its participation on a Medical Debt Collection Task Force with the Healthcare Financial Management Association. The task force developed best practices to help make paying medical bills an easier and fairer proposition for consumers. More information: http://1.usa.gov/1sTUvzT