Companies provide options for financing cosmetic proceduresWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
By Dave Kubacki
TOLEDO FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Most people who want a new iPad or computer but don’t have the money readily available charge it. That’s what credit cards are for, but what if you wanted LASIK or some sort of cosmetic surgery? Well, there is a credit card for that as well.
Companies such as General Electric’s Care Credit, Chase and Citi are now providing financing options for cosmetic, dental, LASIK, hearing, veterinary and other health care expenses.
Cristy Williams, a communications representative at Care Credit, said there is a need for additional financing options.
“Over the last 25 years, continued advancements in technology and procedures often not covered or fully covered by insurance have created new choices for care, increasing the demand for financing options,” Williams said. “This is especially true in our traditional markets of dental, vision and veterinary care.”
Care Credit and other financing options are specifically designed for health care services. Most consumers set up deferred interest payment plans for between six and 24 months. With these plans, consumers can avoid paying interest by making minimum monthly payments and paying the total amount by the end of the promotional period. Interest is charged from the purchase date if the promotional balance, including optional charges, is not paid according to the established payment plan.
“The vast majority of cardholders who select a deferred interest plan pay off the balance within the chosen term and don’t pay any interest,” Williams said.
More than 150,000 providers are currently enrolled in Care Credit, providing an avenue for patients to budget health care expenses, said Dr. Marlene Welch, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Toledo.
“It seems like a good way for people to compartmentalize their expenses,” Welch said. “Most people don’t necessarily have $10,000 sitting around for surgery. It is like going out for a nice dinner. People don’t want to pay up front; they want the experience and results first.”
Welch said there was a simple explanation as to why she started offering Care Credit as a payment option.
“Patients kept asking about Care Credit,” Welch said. “When enough patients asked, I decided it was time to sign up.”
Williams said more than 96 percent of Care Credit cardholders regularly surveyed reported they were highly satisfied with the program and that the service met or exceeded their expectations. Furthermore, 95 percent of both cardholders and providers consistently rate the program as fair to excellent in value, Williams said.
However, customers should know there are possibilities for additional expenses, Welch said.
“Most of the financing options do not cover the fees associated with complications of medical treatment,” Welch said. “No doctor has a zero percent complication rate. Patients could be left with a large medical bill if they have a complication or need to be admitted to the hospital. These expenses are outside the patient’s initial expenses.”
Welch said physicians are also beginning to utilize companies such as CosmetAssure to protect their patients from unexpected expenses related to cosmetic surgery. Because the majority of major medical health insurance policies exclude treatment of complications following elective aesthetic surgery, physicians have begun to use CosmetAssure as a form of cosmetic surgery insurance.
Welch said this level of protection provides additional assurance for patients.
“It’s similar to purchasing travel insurance,” Welch said. “Patients pay a small nominal fee upfront, which is usually built into the surgical cost, and safeguard themselves from paying larger medical bills if there is an unexpected complication.”
Another pitfall of using Care Credit and other health care financing options is possible accumulation of new debt.
According to a study by TransUnion in late 2012, credit card debt per borrower increased 4.91 percent in 2012. Borrowers are now carrying an average credit card debt of $4,996. This statistic was part of TransUnion’s ongoing series of quarterly analyses of credit-active consumers, evaluating how they are managing credit related to mortgages, credit cards and auto loans.