Connie Prater

No credit card, no medical service?

A Connecticut woman's letter to the editor is yet another example of the transformation taking place in health care financing. The woman was angry that a receptionist at an orthopedic doctor's office refused to give her husband an appointment to see a physician unless she gave them their credit card information.

Prefers to use cash
Says the letter writer: "Some people can't afford or choose not to use credit cards. They prefer to use cash, rather than pay high interest rates on credit cards. I would not use a doctor who insists on making me have a credit card to be treated."

Is this the equivalent of "no shirt, no shoes, no service" policies? No credit card, no service? Of course, if the medical issue were an emergency, by law the medical provider could not refuse treatment.

The doctor's office wasn't demanding payment with a credit card, but simply taking the information for their records in case the patient's preferred method of payment -- insurance reimbursements or cash -- fell through. It's the same concept that hotels and rental car agencies use. They require a credit card up front to protect themselves against damage to the rooms or vehicles in case the worst happens. The customer always has the option to pay with another method and thus avoid putting additional charges on their credit cards.

Ability to pay
The reality is that credit cards have become a part of the fabric of cashless American life and it's getting more and more difficult to function without them. Also, health care providers -- who are battling rising health care costs -- now are factoring in the patient's ability to pay when determining eligibility for charity care and whether medical providers can recover their costs of doing business.

See related: "Health credit cards rise to fill insurance gap," "Comparing health care credit options," "Medical FICO score: Good or bad medicine"

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