The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaint portal showed the number of medical debt collection complaints, through early February, began to dip after August 2015.
There were 591 complaints last August, according to the CFPB, and the number fell to 456 in September, 436 in October and 386 in November. The number of complaints rose again to 423 in December.
Rozanne Andersen, vice president and chief compliance officer at Ontario Systems, a software and services company focused on the healthcare industry, told Becker’s Hospital Review that there are a couple of possible reasons for the drop in complaints, including that the CFPB commonly lags in publishing its data - particularly complaints with narratives. Complaints continue to come in for a few months after the fact, she said. Therefore, the number of complaints for the last few months of 2015 could still increase.
The decline in complaints also could be connected to changes in the timing of credit reporting the largest credit bureaus in the U.S., Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, agreed to in March Under theNational Consumer Assistance Plan, the credit bureaus don't report medical debts until after 180 days to allow for insurance payments to be applied.
The credit reporting agencies also will remove previously reported medical collections that have been or are being paid by insurance from consumers’ credit reports.
"The decrease in complaints could be an indication that this longer waiting period is positively impacting consumers," said Andersen, a past recipient of Collections & Credit Risk's Top Women in Collections award.
Overall, medical debt collection complaints have actually increased an estimated 35% since January 2014, according to the CFPB.