By Mike Lillis - 09/27/10 03:27 PM EDT
The House this week is scheduled to take up legislation to prevent paid medical debts from affecting consumers' credit scores.
Sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), the proposal would prohibit credit-rating agencies from considering past medical debts when calculating those scores.
"People shouldn’t have their credit worthiness suffer because they got sick or injured,” Kilroy said in introducing the bill last year. "It is outrageous that bills for as little as a one-dollar dispute with insurance companies are driving up the mortgages of my constituents.”
Roughly 72 million working-age Americans (41 percent) owed medical debt in 2007, up from 34 percent just two years earlier, according to the Commonwealth Fund.
On top of that, 7 million seniors were also paying accumulated medical debts that year, the researchers found. Although the trend affected low and moderate income families disproportionately, all income levels saw rising debts.
More than 60 percent of the patients with debt were insured at the time they received treatments, the Commonwealth Fund reported.
Kilroy's proposal is one of 63 bills on the House suspension calendar this week.
A Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), is idling in the Banking Committee.