Thursday, October 17, 2013

Charging Patients Outrageous Interest for Medical Procedures Not Covered by Insurance - Just Another Day at the Office in America’s Corrupt Health Care System

Well Those Patients Could Always Choose Pain and Suffering

The ugly truth in America is that even with health care reform the out of pocket cost to patients when they need care can still be very high.  And incredibly enough, some patients just don’t have thousands of dollars to pay these costs, not all patients are Mitt Romney.

So here is the story of a woman who needed dental care, and what it cost her.

Chip Litherland for The New York Times
Patricia Gannon, 78, of Dunedin, Fla., 
received a line of credit from First Health
 Funding at an annual 23 percent interest
 rate for dental work. She was later
 offered a medical credit card.
The dentist set to work, tapping and probing, then put down his tools and delivered the news. His patient, Patricia Gannon, needed a partial denture. The cost: more than $5,700.

Ms. Gannon, 78, was staggered. She said she could not afford it. And her insurance would pay only a small portion. But she was barely out of the chair, her mouth still sore, when her dentist’s office held out a solution: a special line of credit to help cover her bill. Before she knew it, Ms. Gannon recalled, the office manager was taking down her financial details.

But what seemed like the perfect answer — seemed, in fact, like just what the doctor ordered — has turned into a quagmire. Her new loan ensured that the dentist, Dr. Dan A. Knellinger, would be paid in full upfront. But for Ms. Gannon, the price was steep: an annual interest rate of about 23 percent, with a 33 percent penalty rate kicking in if she missed a payment.

And yes, they are easy ways to entrap the vulnerable patients into participating in what in most countries would be criminal.

Many of these cards initially charge no interest for a promotional period, typically six to 18 months, an attractive feature for people worried about whether they can afford care. But if the debt is not paid in full when that time is up, costly rates — usually 25 to 30 percent — kick in, the review by The Times found. If payments are late, patients face additional fees and, in most cases, their rates increase automatically. The higher rates are often retroactive, meaning that they are applied to patients’ original balances, rather than to the amount they still owe.

But fear not, there are good alternatives.  At least two come to mind.  The first is to borrow from Tony Soprano, whose criminal enterprises charge a lot lower rates than the established lenders in this area.  And the second is to start making and selling meth.  We understand that at least one person in a financial bind because of medical issues made a lot of money  doing that, and even more if one licenses the movie and television rights to one’s story.

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