Big Pharma isn't the only one preying on patients--the Big Banks are also getting in on the act.
Complaints are growing over so-called health care credit cards--lines of credit for procedures generally not covered by insurance, like dental work, laser eye surgery or cosmetic surgery.
But those bigger boobs, whiter teeth and stronger eyes could cost a lot more than you realize, because these cards can carry interest rates of more than 25 percent.
And that's even when they say "interest free," because these cards come with the same trick you'll find in a discount electronics chain: It's only "interest free" for a very short period.
If you don't pay off the entire loan within that little window, the interest kicks in--and is even backdated to cover the "interest-free" period.
Talk about sticker shock.
What's more, patients are complaining that they are being charged for their procedures before they've even agreed to them. Others are charged the full amount up front for procedures that need weeks or months of treatments--like many dental procedures.
And that means they're paying high interest on something that hasn't even happened yet.
The problem is so bad attorneys general from around the nation are launching investigations.
New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says one of the biggest health care credit card companies, GE CareCredit, creates a twisted incentive for doctors and dentists to pressure you into these high-interest payment plans by offering the providers "rebates" based on how many patients sign up.
That's just another way of saying "commission," turning the doctors and dentists who play ball with this plan into the medical equivalent of used car salesmen.
Better hurry--I can only offer you this price on a new set of teeth today!
GE CreditCare is offered by 130,000 clinics around the country... but it's not the only one you need to watch out for. Chase, Citi and other banks are competing to get a piece of the pie--and it's not always obvious that a bank is behind the operation.
Many patients think they're just signing up for a payment plan that's between them and their doctor.
But with Americans now putting $45 billion a year in health-care fees on credit cards--an amount expected to rise to $150 billion in just five years--you can expect more pressure, more offers and more scams where you least expect them: In your own doctor's office.