According to private foundation The Commonwealth Fund, about 30 million Americans were contacted by collection agencies for unpaid medical bills in 2010, MSNBC reports. This is a marked increase from just five years earlier, when that figure was at 22 million. The rising prevalence of medical bills being sent to collection agencies can have devastating effects on people's credit report for employment or their ability to take out loans or mortgages. And because many medical bills are first submitted to insurance companies, consumers often don't learn of the debt they've accrued until they hear from collections - which by that point is already too late, notes KTVZ-TV. "Medical debt is not a great predictor of a person's credit-worthiness," said Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, as quoted by the news source. "We can't see the future to plan ahead for medical emergencies, but we can stop them from damaging our working families' credit scores for years in the future." Merkley recently reintroduced a bill to Congress - the Medical Debt Responsibility Act - aimed to protect consumers from the consequences of healthcare-related payment issues. Under the legislation, credit agencies will be required to delete paid-off medical debt from credit reports within 45 days and won't be allowed to use settled or paid-off medical debt when determining credit-worthiness.