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Pennsylvanians swamped by medical credit card debt

Have you ever heard of using a medical credit card? Yes, they are a real thing - and yes, they are causing major financial problems for many Pennsylvania residents. Patients often trust their doctors to know what is best for them, but a medical credit card used to pay for treatment can quickly lead to unmanageable debt, according to experts. Here's what you need to know about this new borrowing phenomenon.

New reports show that medical credit cards are expanding past their traditional marketplace: cosmetic surgery. Many of those elective procedures are not covered by patients' insurance, so physicians pushed the cards on those seeking their services. The doctors get financial incentives from the card companies, and they can ensure that they get paid, in full, before a procedure is even performed. Now, a growing number of seniors and low-income families are being seduced into using medical credit cards, as they often face out-of-pocket expenses that are not covered by their modest insurance plans.

Accessing expensive medical care by using a credit card is not always a bad thing, but there is one problem: Doctors are not telling their patients about the basic terms of the cards, which is leading to confusion and additional costs. Patients often think that these cards are the same as a traditional payment plan, when they are nothing alike.

If you are considering a medical credit card, be sure that you know exactly what you are buying from your physician. Find out about your exact treatment plan, and do extra research to make sure your doctor is not gouging you. Just because your doctor is offering the payment plan, it does not mean that the medical credit card is a good idea. Think about in-house financing and even negotiated fees.

A growing number of American bankruptcies are related to medical debt. Clients who are struggling to pay their medical bills may benefit from legal assistance from a qualified bankruptcy attorney or financial planner.

Source: www.consumeraffairs.com, "Beware of doctors pushing high-interest credit cards" James R. Hood, Nov. 18, 2013

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