The Doctor-Patient Relationship Under Attack...by Credit Cards

Financing companies are offering doctor’s offices financial incentives for recommending financing options to patients who may not be able to afford products or procedures.

This is not a new idea; the ability for patients to open a credit card or receive a loan for medical procedures was first seen for cosmetic surgeries and elective surgeries. Unfortunately many older American’s find themselves with their backs against the wall because their care, even the most basic kind, are not being covered by Medicare or private insurance.

The New York Times recently wrote about an elderly woman who went to see her dentist for a problem and later found out she needed a partial denture. She was floored when she received the bill - $5,700.

Empathizing with her, the dentist office offered her a solution – a line of credit.

At first thought, it doesn’t necessarily sound like a bad idea. However, patients and doctor’s offices are being deceived.

iCare Financial of Atlanta, a financing company that offers an assortment of financing plans through doctor’s offices have experienced a 320% increase in enrollment over the past three years. They appeal to providers by showing patients vanishing from their waiting rooms because of the inability to pay for procedures.

The efforts that physicians and other medical personnel put forth to build meaningful relationships with their patients are diminished by offering these forms of payment. Interest rates are typically over 25% and increase automatically, often times the rates are retroactive, meaning they are applied to the patients’ original balances, rather than the amount they still owe and there are additional fees if payments are made late.

While medical credit cards and medical loans may be the only option for some patients, it’s not always the best option. Bear in mind that you are the representative for financing companies; whenever there is a problem, patients are more than likely going to blame you.

A chiropractor in Alaska once offered medical cards at his practice, but quickly learned that one missed payment could ruin a patient’s finances and life. When talking with other physicians, he asks them to consider if this is something they would recommend to their friends and family. Usually the answer is no, he says.