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Biden Admin Wants To Purge Medical Debt From Your Credit Score, So You Can Actually Maybe Buy A House Or Something?
Hooray for people being able to live somewhere!
I don’t care what those PBS documentaries say, the most American Experience on earth has to be that of mass shooting victims who incur unbelievable amounts of medical debt, which tanks their credit rating, and can then make it impossible for them to get a mortgage or auto loan. Nowhere else in the world do they have all of that available as a combo!
There are, sadly, a variety of enraging reason people here have medical debt.
Sometimes it’s a small amount, say their doctor ordered a blood panel to see if they have a vitamin or iron deficiency, which seemed like a normal doctor thing to do, but then it turned out their health insurance didn’t cover blood work and they got a bill for $1500 the day after they got laid off.
It can also be a huge amount — say, if they have a medical emergency in a rural area that is very far from a hospital and an air ambulance is dispatched to come get them. Because those are almost never covered by insurance and the median price for one is about $36,000. One ride notably cost a patient $489,000. Given that a full third of Americans make less than $15 an hour, this is far outside of most people’s “fun budget.”
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I’m burying the lede here, somewhat — though if you’ve read the headline, you know where this is going.
Vice President Kamala Harris announced this week that the Biden administration is looking to lessen the burden medical debt has on people by purging it from their credit report. This means that even if people have piles of medical debt — one in five Americans say they do — it’s not going to affect their ability to get a mortgage or a car loan. So they will at least have a place to rest their head and a car they can drive to work every day while paying off their medical bills.
Harris said that would make it easier for them to obtain an auto loan or a home mortgage. Roughly one in five people report having medical debt. The vice president said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is beginning the rulemaking process to make the change.
The agency said in a statement that including medical debt in credit scores is problematic because “mistakes and inaccuracies in medical billing are common.”
“Access to health care should be a right and not a privilege,” Harris told reporters in call to preview the action. “These measures will improve the credit scores of millions of Americans so that they will better be able to invest in their future.”
It only seems fair that high medical bills for an emergency or serious illness shouldn’t affect one’s credit rating anyway. It’s not like we’re talking about someone irresponsibly dropping several grand at Versace and then never paying off the credit card bill. Fifty-seven percent of Americans could not afford a surprise $1000 emergency, so the inability to pay off massive amounts of medical debt is hardly a fair reflection of an inclination to default on normal payments — payments you can budget for — on something like a mortgage or auto loan. “Way to be irresponsible by getting cancer, lady! You should definitely be punished for that by not being able to find any place to live!” seems pretty harsh, no?
Additionally, just on an economic level, we need people to buy homes. We need people to have places to live. We need rent prices to come down and they’re not going to do that if people who can afford to buy are renting instead of buying (well, unless we institute national rent control, but that’s never going to happen).
According to a survey conducted last year by real estate brokerage Redfin, 45 percent of renters said that their debt is one reason they’re not buying a home right now.
I’m willing to accept the fact that most Americans either love their private health insurance companies or want to support socialized health care but cannot bring themselves to do so until the person who proposes it has a voice they find mellifluous, gives it a name they like, and remembers to do three umbrella twirls and spit before explaining how buying things in bulk works. Do I get it? Not especially, but I don’t get macarons either. Weirdly expensive things that are not that great of a time tend to be beyond my ken.
But we’ve decided to go with a very costly and messy AF healthcare system, and there are going to be complications that echo far beyond people merely not being able to afford the medical care they need or living in terror that they will be faint on the street and someone will call an ambulance for them. This will mitigate one of those echoes in a clean and efficient way … and, let us note, without actually costing anyone any money.
I say let’s do it and get it done before anyone on the Right can come up with an elaborate conspiracy theory in which this is somehow just part of a big ol’ plot to encourage people to get medical care from doctors instead of homeopaths or the clerk at the Tractor Supply Company.