The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has recently proposed a groundbreaking rule to remove medical bills from most credit reports. This proposal aims to alleviate the financial burden on millions of Americans and enhance privacy protections. It also seeks to prevent coercive debt collection practices.

With medical debt being a significant issue for many, this rule could potentially eliminate as much as $49 billion in medical debts. This could improve credit scores and increase loan approvals for approximately 15 million people. This comprehensive blog will delve into the background, rationale, and potential impact of this proposed rule. It will provide a detailed analysis for our readers.

Background and Rationale

Medical debt is a pervasive issue in the United States, affecting millions of consumers who often find their credit scores unfairly impacted by medical bills. These debts can arise from unexpected medical emergencies, routine procedures, or even billing errors. The CFPB’s proposal is part of a broader effort to address the impact of medical debt on consumers’ financial health. Medical bills on credit reports often result in unjustly lowered credit scores, which can lead to denied loan applications and other financial hardships. 

According to CFPB Director Rohit Chopra, “The CFPB is seeking to end the senseless practice of weaponizing the credit reporting system.” This aims to prevent coercing patients into paying medical bills that they do not owe.

The nature of medical debt is unique and complex. Unlike other forms of debt, medical debt is often incurred unexpectedly and can quickly accumulate to significant amounts. This unpredictability can create substantial financial stress for consumers, especially when they are already dealing with health issues. Moreover, medical billing systems are notoriously complicated, often leading to errors that can result in inflated or incorrect debt amounts. 

Historical Context

In 2003, Congress passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), which restricted lenders from using medical information, including debts, for credit decisions. However, subsequent regulatory exceptions allowed creditors to continue using medical debts in their evaluations. This loophole has contributed to the ongoing issue of medical debt affecting credit scores and lending decisions. The CFPB now aims to close this regulatory loophole with the proposed rule, ensuring that medical debt information no longer unjustly damages consumers’ credit scores. 

The history of credit reporting in the United States reveals a long-standing struggle to balance accurate financial information with consumer protections. The inclusion of medical debt in credit reports has been particularly contentious. This is due to the unique circumstances under which such debt is incurred. Many consumer advocates argue that medical debt should not be treated the same as other types of debt. This is because it often results from unforeseen health crises rather than poor financial management.

Key Provisions of the Proposed Rule 

The proposed rule includes several critical measures designed to protect consumers from the negative effects of medical debt on credit reports. These measures aim to create a more accurate and fair credit reporting system. They strive to ensure the system is free from the undue influence of medical debt.

Elimination of the Medical Debt Exception 

The rule would remove the special exception that permits lenders to use medical debt information for credit eligibility determinations. This means lenders would no longer be able to factor in medical debts when assessing creditworthiness. This change is expected to significantly reduce the negative impact of medical debt on consumers’ credit scores. 

Removing this exception is a significant shift in how medical debt is treated within the credit reporting framework. By doing so, the CFPB aims to ensure that medical debt does not unfairly hinder consumers’ access to credit. This provision recognizes the unique nature of medical expenses and the fact that they do not reflect a consumer’s general financial responsibility or ability to repay other types of debt. 

Guardrails for Credit Reporting Companies

By establishing these guardrails, the CFPB aims to ensure that credit reports more accurately reflect consumers’ financial health without the distortions caused by medical debt. These guardrails are crucial for maintaining the integrity of credit reports. By ensuring that medical debt is excluded, credit reports will provide a clearer picture of a consumer’s financial behavior and creditworthiness.

Ban on Repossession of Medical Devices 

The rule would also prohibit lenders from taking medical devices as collateral for loans and ban the repossession of such devices. This ensures that essential medical equipment remains with the individuals who need it. This provision is crucial for protecting consumers’ access to necessary medical devices, which can be vital for their health and well-being.

This provision addresses an egregious practice where lenders use medical devices, such as wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs, as collateral for loans. By banning this practice, the CFPB aims to protect the health and dignity of consumers. It ensures they retain access to essential medical equipment even in cases of financial hardship.

Impact of the Proposed Rule

The CFPB’s research indicates that medical bills on credit reports often provide little to no predictive value regarding a person’s ability to repay other loans. These debts can make underwriting decisions less accurate. This results in many denied applications for loans that consumers are capable of repaying. The proposed rule is expected to improve underwriting accuracy and increase the volume of safe loan approvals. This change will benefit both consumers and lenders.

Improved Credit Scores

If the proposed rule is finalized, Americans with medical debt on their credit reports could see their credit scores rise by an average of 20 points. This improvement could significantly enhance their financial opportunities, enabling them to access credit products that were previously out of reach. 

A higher credit score can open many doors for consumers, including better interest rates on loans and access to higher credit limits. Improved terms on credit products are also a benefit. By removing the negative impact of medical debt, the proposed rule would help consumers rebuild their credit profiles. This would aid in achieving greater financial stability.

Increased Mortgage Approvals

The CFPB estimates that the rule could lead to the approval of approximately 22,000 additional safe mortgages annually. This increase would provide more Americans with the opportunity to own homes, fostering greater financial stability and prosperity. 

Homeownership is a key component of financial security and wealth building for many Americans. By facilitating more mortgage approvals, the CFPB’s proposed rule could help more families achieve the dream of homeownership, contributing to community stability and economic growth. 

Industry Response and Voluntary Changes

In December 2014, the CFPB released a report showing that medical debts provide less predictive value to lenders than other debts on credit reports. Then in March 2022, the CFPB released a report estimating that medical bills made up $88 billion of reported debts on credit reports. In that report, the CFPB announced that it would assess whether credit reports should include data on unpaid medical bills.  

Since the March 2022 report, the three nationwide credit reporting conglomerates – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – announced that they would take many of those bills off credit reports, and FICO and VantageScore, the two major credit scoring companies, have decreased the degree to which medical bills impact a consumer’s score.  

Despite these voluntary industry changes, 15 million Americans still have $49 billion in outstanding medical bills in collections appearing in the credit reporting system. The complex nature of medical billing, insurance coverage, and reimbursement means that reported medical debts are often inaccurate or inflated. Additionally, changes by FICO and VantageScore have not eliminated the credit score difference between people with and without medical debt. We expect that Americans with medical debt on their credit reports will see their credit scores rise by 20 points, on average. This will happen if today’s proposed rule is finalized.

Challenges and Ongoing Issues

The complex nature of medical billing, insurance coverage, reimbursement, and debt collection often results in inaccurate or inflated medical debts on credit reports. Debt collectors frequently engage in “debt parking,” placing medical debt on credit reports without the consumer’s knowledge. This forces consumers to pay to improve their credit scores. This coercive practice underscores the need for regulatory intervention.

Debt Parking and Coercive Practices 

Under the current system, debt collectors improperly use the credit reporting system to coerce people to pay debts they may not owe. Many debt collectors engage in a practice known as “debt parking.” They purchase medical debt and then place it on credit reports without the consumer’s knowledge. When consumers apply for credit, they may discover that a medical bill is hindering their ability to get a loan. Consumers may then feel forced to pay the medical bill to improve their credit score, regardless of the debt’s validity. The proposed rule aims to put an end to such coercive practices.

Debt parking is particularly problematic because it often involves debts that the consumer is unaware of or that are incorrect. This practice can lead to significant financial distress and unfairly penalizes consumers who may already be struggling with medical issues. 

The Need for Regulatory Intervention

Despite voluntary industry changes by credit reporting agencies and scoring companies, the issue of medical debt in credit reports remains significant. The complex nature of medical billing often leads to errors and inflated debts that unfairly impact consumers’ credit scores. The CFPB’s proposed rule seeks to address these issues by removing medical debt from credit reports. This aims to protect consumers from unjust financial harm.

Regulatory intervention is necessary to ensure that the protections are consistent and enforceable. The proposed rule would create a standard that all credit reporting agencies and lenders must follow, providing a uniform approach to handling medical debt and protecting consumers’ rights. 


The CFPB’s proposed rule to ban medical debt from credit reports is a significant step towards protecting consumers from unfair financial practices. By eliminating the ability of lenders to use medical debts in credit decisions, the CFPB aims to create a more accurate and fair credit reporting system. This rule, if finalized, could lead to improved credit scores and increased loan approvals. It could also result in a more just financial system for millions of Americans.

For those seeking to repair their credit and navigate the complexities of medical debt, Credit Repair of Florida offers professional services to help improve your credit score and achieve financial stability. Their expertise can guide you through the process of addressing and resolving medical debts on your credit report, ensuring that your financial future is secure.