Listen: Medical Bills Upended Her Life and Her Credit Score

This story is a part of an ongoing investigation from KHN and NPR into medical debt.  

Penelope Wingard is hard. She has survived breast most cancers, a mind aneurysm, and surgical procedure on each eyes. However saving her life has come at a steep value.

Wingard — who goes by “Penny” — is now free from most cancers. However for the previous eight years, she has been battling one thing that has felt simply as powerful as a persistent sickness: medical debt. Signs embody day by day payments within the mail and harassing calls from collectors. And her credit score rating has taken successful.

She has resigned herself to residing with the ramifications of medical debt.

These embody being reduce off from docs till she pays down her debt, having to borrow cash from household for medical emergencies, and being rejected from jobs when her low credit score rating reveals up as a crimson flag on background checks.

“It’s such as you’re being punished for being sick,” Wingard mentioned.

This yr, three nationwide credit score companies introduced new insurance policies to stop medical debt from harming individuals’s credit score scores. Shopper advocates celebrated, pondering aid was lastly on the best way for tens of millions of Individuals battling medical payments.

It seems the brand new insurance policies gained’t assist Wingard.

A report from the Shopper Monetary Safety Bureau discovered the insurance policies gained’t attain most of the individuals hit hardest by medical debt. Like Wingard, they are typically Black Individuals residing in Southern states that haven’t expanded Medicaid.

This story was produced by KHN (Kaiser Well being Information), a nationwide newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about well being points. Along with Coverage Evaluation and Polling, KHN is without doubt one of the three main working applications at KFF (Kaiser Household Basis). KFF is an endowed nonprofit group offering info on well being points to the nation.

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