health care

  1. Health-care credit lines a pain in the bank account

    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.

  2. Americans skimping on health care to make ends meet

    by Dr. Alan Inglis

    There’s an old line of thinking that the health care industry is recession-proof. Well, tell that to the millions of Americans who are skipping doctor’s appointments to make ends meet.

    According to new research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of Americans said they or someone living with them had cut back on health care in the past year to save money. About 27 percent said they or someone in their household postponed needed medical care – and 16 percent of households had someone who postponed surgery or a doctor’s visit for a chronic illness.

    Of course, there were also respondents who weren’t filling prescriptions or were cutting pills in half because of cost.

    The cost of health care can be heartbreaking, and here’s the thing… I can’t promise you it’s going to get any more affordable. I also can’t promise you that the economy is going to improve and you’ll feel better about plunking down the money for a doctor’s visit or screening.

    But what I can tell you is that, in some ways, you’re very much in control of how often you’re going to need the care of a doctor. If you’re eating lots of sugar-laden, processed junk food and aren’t doing much exercise beyond the walk from the couch to the fridge, you’re creating some expensive… and life-threatening… health problems.

    You also might want to consider adding supplements or foods that have been shown to prevent nasty health issues. I talk all the time about the benefits of fish oil for battling heart disease. And simply drinking green tea instead of bottle after bottle of Coca-Cola will help you avoid diabetes and protect your brain at the same time.

    You can also control your medical expenses by taking a hard look at the prescription drugs you’re currently taking. Have a frank discussion with your doctor about whether you really need them, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Maybe you started taking the drugs instead of making some lifestyle changes… and maybe, in this economy, you’d like to shed the monthly cost for these drugs and give lifestyle modification another shot.

    At any rate, health care is expensive and probably will be for the foreseeable future. Instead of skipping doctor’s appointments, improve your health so you need to see your doctor less.

    That’ll add money to your bank account – and years to your life.

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