Think Twice Before Signing Up for That Medical Credit Card

If you are like most people, you have probably used a credit card to pay some of your medical bills. With rising health costs and gaps in insurance coverage, it's almost unavoidable.

Mark Rukavina, executive director of the Access Project, said medical cards might not be suited to people with limited financial resources. "But it's usually people with limited resources who sign up," he said.

Patients pay about $45 billion worth of health care costs with plastic, according to a report from McKinsey & Company. By 2015, that number could more than triple to an estimated $150 billion. And big finance companies and medical providers have taken note.

Companies like GE Money, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase have issued medical credit cards or lines of credit intended to be used specifically for elective health care expenses not covered by insurance, including certain dental procedures, Lasik surgery, some cosmetic surgery and even veterinary care. The cards are not used for continuing medical care or emergency room visits.

The issuers market these cards not so much to consumers but to doctors, dentists and other health care providers, who in turn offer them to patients as a payment option. Patients like medical credit cards because payments for care can be spread out over many months and the cards can be used at multiple providers. The providers have embraced them as a way of offloading billing headaches and expenses.

But even as medical credit cards become increasingly popular, they are getting more scrutiny

New York Times
Article Publish Date: 
November 26, 2010