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Rule changes target consumers' difficulty with high medical bills

If you're a Floridian with medical debt who takes solace in company, note this: According to the national Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, about 43 million people across the country have an adverse entry on their credit reports relating to medical debt.

That is not a misprint. Forty-three million.

And that flatly astonishing number comes with a tandem finding from the CFPB, namely, that more than half of all the outstanding debt shown on credit reports comes from -- yes, you guessed it -- medical expenses.

Clearly, medical costs -- exorbitantly high and ever spiraling -- are a colossal problem in the United States, with their implications being immediately notable and troubling in the extreme.

To wit: People shackled by onerously high medical bills forgo purchases in other areas deemed important by economists and other pundits focused on national growth. They do not buy houses. They are not primary purchasers of cars, household goods, appliances and a host of other necessities.

And, of course, it is inordinately hard for consumers with medical bills to save money when the amounts they owe are so prohibitively high that they are either in collection or have been reported to credit-reporting agencies.

Flatly out-of-control medical debt is such an alarming problem that regulators recently enacted new rules that better protect consumers who are trying to stay above water.

One key change relates to how quickly collection companies can pass along past-due information to reporting agencies, with that adverse data appearing on credit reports. Collectors have historically done that right after receiving unpaid accounts from medical facilities.

Going forward, consumers will now have a 180-day grace period to deal with their debts before they have to worry about dings on their credit scores.

Another described "major change" addresses past-due medical debt that a consumer has paid off. In the past, even past-due accounts that a debtor managed to fully pay remained visible on a credit report, and for a lengthy period.

That will no longer be the case, with all adverse information dropping off a report once a debt has been satisfied.

These are positive changes, no doubt, but they are also akin to band-aids applied to a problem that ultimately requires a much larger fix.

Persons with questions and concerns regarding high medical bills can get accurate answers and legal advice from an experienced debt-relief attorney.

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