Reporting Process

Credit Agencies To Ease Up On Medical Debt Reporting

Credit Agencies To Ease Up On Medical Debt Reporting

NPR - Millions of Americans have medical debt that's hurting their credit. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimated it's as many as 43 million people, according to data released in late 2014.

Now, some relief may be on the way.

Changes in the way credit agencies report and evaluate medical debt are in the works. They should reduce some of the painful financial consequences of having a health care problem.

Starting Sept. 15, the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — will set a 180-day waiting period before including medical debt on a consumer's credit report. The six-month period is intended to ensure there's enough time to resolve disputes with insurers and delays in payment.

Update: Credit Industry Reform

Update: Credit Industry Reform

An update on the National Consumer Assistance Plan

On March 8, 2015, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion (CRAs) entered into a settlement agreement with the NY Attorney General along with 31 additional AGs from other states. Upon entering the agreement, the CRAs announced that they would address a number of credit reporting industry problems, including their dispute process and how they handle unpaid medical debt. This agreement is referred to as the National Consumer Assistance Plan.

The credit reporting industry overhaul is taking place nationally over the course of three plus years with 2018 as the deadline to have all changes made. The overhaul will be implemented in three phases (detailed below) to allow the CRAs to update their IT systems and procedures with data furnishers.

To date, changes to websites and other technical tasks have been acomplished. A change to be implemented this September will address the dispute process. The CRAs will be using trained and empowered employees to review the documentation accompanying disputes. And, if a furnisher says its information is correct, the credit reporting agencies must still look into it and resolve the dispute.

In addition, the credit reporting overhaul will require CRAs to wait 180 days before adding any medical debt

Defining the Credit File

Defining the Credit File

Inside the database of a credit reporting agency...

To know what a credit file is you must first understand what a database is and how it functions. A database is structured data that is accessible in a variety of ways. There are about a dozen different kinds of databases, and the credit reporting agencies use one of the most common types, a relational database. At the most basic level, a relational database is an electronic database that arranges information into one or more tables with a unique identifier for each row. In a credit reporting agency's database, each row represents a single consumer while each column contains bits of information attributed to the column header (such as Social Security number or date of birth). 

Credit Files & Credit Reports

Credit Files & Credit Reports

The term "credit file" is often used interchangeably with "credit report", but in the credit reporting industry these terms are distinctly different.  A credit file is a bit of raw data contained within a database. At any given time, the national consumer reporting agencies maintain hundreds of millions of consumer credit files in their databases. According to some estimates these files relate to approximately 250 million credit active consumers across the United States. This means that many consumers have more than one credit file in a consumer reporting agency's system.

A "credit report" is something that does not currently exist. A credit report is created at the moment that it is asked for. Your credit report might look different today than it will a month from now, and most certainly will look different than it did three months ago. ...

Who is allowed to pull your credit report?

Who is allowed to pull your credit report?

Not just anyone can pull your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, the federal law which governs credit reporting, allows credit reporting agencies to generate your credit report under the following circumstance and no other: 

  • by written request from you or a guardian
  • by court order
  • by request from a state or local child support enforcement agency
  • by request of others who intend to use your credit report:
    • to extend credit (including landlords and utilities)
    • to collect debt (debt collectors)
    • for employment purposes
    • for insurance underwriting purposes
    • to determine eligibility for a license or government benefits
    • to determine if you meet the terms of an account
    • for business transactions

Are utility bills and rent payments on your credit report?

Are utility bills and rent payments on your credit report?

Utility bills and rent payments may be on your credit report. It depends on what type of consumer you are. Until recently, roughly 53 million consumers did not have access to the mainstream credit system because they had no credit. FICO's new scoring system uses rent, utility, cell phone, and cable payments to score consumers who previously had little to no credit, or no FICO score.

Credit Reporting Reform Underway

2015 is a big year for the credit reporting industry. Major changes are underway. Earlier this year, Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union announced that they would change the way they handle credit disputes and unpaid medical bills. Credit experts say the announcement marks the biggest reform for the credit reporting industry in more than a decade. Most importantly, these changes will help millions qualify for better interest rates on student, home, and auto loans.

Consumer Reporting Agencies

What is a Consumer Reporting Agency?

The term "consumer reporting agencies" is a statutory term defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the "FCRA"). Consumer reporting agencies are often referred to as "credit bureaus" or "credit reporting agencies." Under the FCRA, a consumer reporting agency is a company that collects information and provide reports on consumers that are most often used to decide whether to provide consumers credit, insurance or employment. The following is a list of companies that identify themselves as consumer reporting agencies:

National Consumer Reporting Agencies

  • Equifax
  • Experian
  • Trans Union

 

Limitations of the e-OSCAR System | Credit Report Disputes

In a study released this month by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the CFPB found that there are specific limitations on the e-OSCAR system; the electronic system used by the national consumer reporting agencies (Trans Union, Experian and Equifax) (CRAs) to process consumer disputes of the accuracy of their credit reports.  Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the CRAs are required to send data furnishers a notice of a consumer dispute that includes “all relevant information regarding the dispute that the agency has received from the consumer.” 

You May Have More Than One Credit File

At any given time, the national consumer reporting agencies maintain hundreds of millions of consumer "credit files" in their databases. According to some estimates these files relate to approximately 250 million credit active consumers across the United States. This means that many consumers have more than one file in a consumer reporting agency's system. Having more than one file on any one consumer serves as a catalyst to incomplete and inaccurate data being relied upon in the creation of a consumer report (commonly known as a “credit report”).

Numerous credit files may exists on a single consumer for the following reasons:

  • Consumer reporting agencies may not have enough information to say with the highest degree of certainty that each of the credit files should "merge."
  • The various creditors' records do not always identify an individual consumer in the same way.
  • Consumers may use two or more names in their credit activities (such as nick names, maiden and married names, names with and without generational suffixes).
  • Consumers may have two or more addresses (such as home/school, work/home or vacation or second homes).
  • Creditor's records may misspell or invert letters in names, street addresses, or social security numbers.

Consumer Reporting Agencies Subject to Increased Federal Supervision

Earlier this week, the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), Richard Cordray, spoke at a field hearing were he discussed the CFPB’s new authority to supervise consumer reporting agencies. Starting this September, the CFPB will have the authority to supervise 94% of the credit reporting industry. Until now, consumer reporting agencies (commonly referred to as “credit reporting agencies” or “credit bureaus”), the largest of which are Equifax (including credit files owned by CSC Credit Services), Experian, and Trans Union, have never been subject to like supervision. From conducting on-site examinations to seeking better comprehension of policies and procedures, the CFPB’s supervisory authority will seek to ensure that the consumer financial laws are being followed.

The creation of the consumer bureau, the CFPB, was done so in response to the recent financial crisis experienced by the United States.

Understanding How Credit Information Is Reported

In order to effectively protect your credit history, you must first understand how credit information is reported to the consumer reporting agencies. The consumer reporting agencies (Trans Union, Experian, Equifax and CSC Credit Services) receive credit related information and store that information in sophisticated databases. Those that provide credit information to the agencies are known as "furnishers." Furnishers are typically lenders (such as those that provide revolving credit lines, mortgages, student loans and the like) but may also include others like public information venders that collect and provide public record information (such as judgments and bankruptcies) to the consumer reporting agencies.

One common misconception is that when furnishers report your credit information that information posts directly to your "credit report" which in turn is provided to potential creditors when you apply for new credit.  This misconception is wrong for many reasons all of which relate to how the agencies collect, sort and then disseminate credit information.

Possible Credit Files - You May Have More Than One Credit File

Consumer reporting agencies (commonly known as "credit reporting agencies" or "credit bureaus") provide consumer reports (commonly  known as "credit reports") to subscribers who use the information to make credit granting decisions.  In order to obtain a consumer report, the agencies require their subscribers (i.e. banks, department stores, insurance companies and others) to furnish the name and address for the person on whom they are inquiring.  Some agencies, such as Trans Union, also encourage subscribers to provide a consumer's social security number as well. At any given time, the national consumer reporting agencies maintain hundreds of millions of "credit files" in their databases.  A credit file contains indicative information (such as name, address, former address, social security number and other information) and individual trade lines (such as account number, credit terms, payment history and other items) belonging to the consumer.  These files relate to the credit active consumers across the United States of which there are approximately 250 million, meaning that many consumers have more than one file in a consumer reporting agency's system.

Indiana Residents - Your Equifax Credit File Is Actually Owned By CSC

Most people know there are three national consumer reporting agencies - Trans Union, Equifax and Experian. However, if you are a resident of Indiana, then your "Equifax" credit report is actually a report compiled from a credit file owned by a company called CSC Credit Services.  CSC owns, manages and controls the file and all information within that file but stores the file on Equifax's database and reports the file through the Equifax reporting system.  If you discover inaccuracies on a credit report prepared by Equifax and you reside in Indiana, you should dispute those inaccuracies directly with CSC which you can do by clicking the following link: CSC Credit Report Disputes.  Note, CSC owns credit files for residents in fifteen (15) mid-western and central states.