Long after the procedure is over, patients are still suffering with pain. Not from the operation, but from the card they used to pay for the operation. Medical credit cards are offered at the doctor’s office to pay for procedures, patients otherwise cannot afford at the time. This type of credit seems like a quick fix for pricey procedures not covered by insurance.
However, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly a third of Americans report trouble paying their medical bills and many have taken on credit card debt to pay the expenses. Medical debt is the No. 1 reason Americans file for bankruptcy.
One of the biggest dangers of medical credit cards are the misconceptions associated with them. A number of patients think they are setting up an installment plan with the doctor’s office. Many do not understand they have opened up a new line of credit with sky-high interest rates and strict penalties for even a single missed payment.
Most of these cards feature a “zero interest” promotional period for up to 18 months. But then the interest rate can jump to 25 percent or higher. Some consumers never received a copy of the credit card terms and had to rely on explanations from medical staffers who had little training on the card details, in cases cited by U.S. authorities.
Another potential drawback is something called deferred interest. That means if a patient does not pay off the entire balance during the “interest-free” period, they can be retroactively charged for interest dating back to when they first signed up.
Before you sign up for a medical credit card, we advise that you research other options, first. Medically necessary procedures may be available at a discounted rate or even for free at certain hospitals that provide some level of charitable care. If it is not medically necessary, consider waiting until you can afford the procedure. If you must use a credit card to pay for a procedure, use one that has terms and conditions you understand.
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