Make room in your wallet. Big health insurers like Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield are teaming up with banks and financial-services companies to offer credit cards for medical spending. These medical credit cards are tailored for use only at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers. In some cases, these doctors and hospitals are also being enlisted in the marketing of these cards as well as in financing for medical services, since avoiding unpaid medical bills helps their bottom line.
The Pros: The credit lines typically feature zero- or low-interest introductory periods.
The Cons: Some of these new lines of credit for medical bills charge high yearly fees plus APRs on missed payments of nearly 25%. Since medical spending is already the leading cause of half of all personal bankruptcies in the US, consumer advocates worry that adding the potential for credit debt onto medical debt will just make things worse. One out of 5 low-and middle-income households already have credit card debt from medical bills, and it’s higher on average ($11,623) than those with credit card balances but no medical debt ($7,964).
Which begs the question: should bankruptcy law regard the person who charged her double mastectomy the same as the person who charged his Hawaiian vacation?
HEALTHCARE CREDIT CARDS ARE STIRRING DEBATE
by Maria M. Perotin
October 29, 2007
INSURERS, BANKS PARTNER ON CREDIT CARDS
Orlando Business Journal
by Tiffany Beck and Marie-Anne Hogarth
September 21, 2007
DOCTORS OFFERING NO-INTEREST LOANS TO PATIENTS
by Milt Freudenheim
The New York Times
August 30, 2007
“Borrowing to Stay Healthy” by Cindy Zeldin and Mark Rukavina, Demos and The Access Project, January 2007.