CHICAGO (AP) -- Here's an added challenge if you're struggling to pay a medical bill: Your credit can be wrecked if the doctor or hospital kicks your unpaid bill to a collection agency.
And your credit can remain ruined even after you've paid the bill.
A growing number of Americans are discovering this unexpected land mine. The Commonwealth Fund estimates that 30 million people were contacted by collection agencies for unpaid medical bills in 2010.
People with wrecked credit scores include those who were just trying to resolve a dispute with their insurer. It includes people owing less than $250. The record of the collection action can stay on a credit report for up to seven years.
That can drag down a credit score and drive up the cost of financing a home.
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