ACA International, the largest trade group for the consumer debt collection industry, has responded to a report issued by the National Consumer Law Center, "Strong Medicine Needed: What the CFPB Should Do to Protect Consumers From Unfair Collection and Reporting of Medical Debt."

Following is a statement from ACA CEO Pat Morris:

ACA members welcome the opportunity to help patients gain greater access to available healthcare and financial assistance programs. Our industry takes its responsibility of working with consumers very seriously; and we remain focused on improving the patient experience and reducing confusion due to inconsistent or duplicative federal, state and local financial assistance requirements.

Unfortunately, yet predictably, the NCLC’s myopic report attempts to associate its concerns with only one of several stakeholders in the resolution of medical accounts - consumer debt collectors. As such, it disingenuously calls for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to exert authority it does not have. Instead of focusing on real solutions to real problems, the NCLC continues to be focused on vilifying the legitimate and critical debt collection industry.

ACA has proactively partnered with the Healthcare Financial Management Association along with healthcare providers, provider organizations, account resolution firms and credit bureaus to develop best practices for resolution of medical accounts. We believe the best practices are balanced, fair and reasonable, and provide for appropriate protection for patients. However, it is important to understand that all parties involved in the process have a shared responsibility. As such, for these best practices to be truly effective, all parties must exercise their appropriate responsibilities, including the patient.

ACA sent the statement to all U.S. House and Senate legislative directors and legislative assistants who handle financial services and/or health-related issues.

ACA regularly has urged Congress and regulatory agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to support updating laws in a manner that balances consumer protection with the ability of a creditor or debt collector to recover rightfully owed debts.

Morris pointed out that collecting consumer debt for businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations is critical to maintaining strong national, state and local economies. Based on a study by Ernst & Young, third-party debt collectors recovered $55.2 billion in 2013 on behalf of creditor, healthcare, government and other clients - returning to them an estimated $45 billion and keeping some $10.4 billion in commission and fees.

The survey shows that the health of national and state economies relies on the recovery of consumer debt. It also indicates that only a small percentage of outstanding consumer debt actually was recovered in 2013. Ernst & Young surveyed an estimated 300 collection agencies and used public data from the U.S. Census and The North American Industry Classification System.

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