If you visited a nonprofit hospital, which nearly 60% of hospitals in the U.S. are, federal law protects your hospital bill from going to collections prematurely.
Hospital bill collections cannot legally start until 120 days after the hospital first sent you your bill, or the “statement date” printed on your bill. If your hospital is billing you for multiple procedures, the 120 days starts ticking from the statement date on the bill for your most recent procedure.
Your unpaid hospital bill cannot affect your credit for 12 months from the time a hospital says your bill is past-due, based on a change the three major credit bureaus enacted on July 1, 2022. This applies to any paid hospital bills, as well as hospital bills that were already in collections at the time of the change. Starting in January 2023, any unpaid medical debt under $500 won’t affect credit at all.
What if My Hospital Bill Has Already Gone to Collections?
If your hospital bill has gone to collections, your hospital is unlikely to negotiate, because it has already sold your bill to a collections agency.
The good news is that even if your debt has gone to collections, you still have time to pay it before it shows up on your credit report. As long as you pay off your medical collection debt — or as least bring it under $500 — within 365 days of the original delinquency date, it won't appear on your credit reports or impact your credit scores, according to credit bureau Experian. The original delinquency date is defined as when your account was first reported as being past due.
Goodbill isn't currently able to negotiate hospital bills that are already in collections, but Experian has published this guide on how to negotiate a hospital bill directly with a collections agency if you still want to lower your bill. You'll want to weigh your options carefully, though, as settling with the collections agency for a reduced balance could still affect your credit score.