Dental patients can face tough choices when figuring out how to pay for costly services not covered by insurance. In moments of need or pain, they may be offered the option of applying for a medical credit card — right in the dental office.
The credit cards ensure immediate payment to providers, so dentists like them. But patients are not always clear on the terms, which often include deferred-interest provisions. If cardholders misunderstand what they have signed up for and falls behind on payments, they can end up facing inflated bills and crippling debt. Continue reading
Capital Public Radio’s Kelley Weiss reports that more patients are using “Dental credit cards,” lines of credit that carry high interest rates but may enable some patients to afford costly dental procedures. Plastic surgeons and veterinarians also use the cards. Despite the endorsements of dental organizations and availability at about 100,000 providers nationwide, growing numbers of patients are complaining about the cards and their issuer, CareCredit.
“It’s a new trend that we’re seeing,” said Elizabeth Landsberg, an attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “We didn’t have any of these cases in 2006. We saw some in 2007, and we saw a lot more in 2008.”
Landsberg says states are just starting to pay attention to this problem, and California’s ahead of the curve. That state is now tracking complaints, and this year saw nearly three dozen, she says. Most of these were from the poor, the elderly and non-English speakers.
Landsberg accuses CareCredit of predatory lending practices. She says people can get broadsided by a retroactive interest rate of as much as 30 percent for a late payment.
A CareCredit spokeswoman said the company did not engage in predatory lending practices, and that the majority of the company’s customers are happy.