These days, more and more people sure seem to be going gaga over plastic – surgery, that is. An article on the Daily Finance’s website claims that cosmetic procedures are up 155% since 1997. In fact, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reveals that nearly 9.5 million procedures were performed in 2010, amounting to a whopping 10.7 billion dollars paid.
Not all of those medical expenses are elective, either, according to estimates made by the McKinsey global management consulting firm. Data they gathered predicts that, over these next five years, out-of-pocket healthcare expenses will increase by 105 billion dollars, reaching a staggering $150 billion by 2015.
Much of this expense is being funded by credit cards, with a lot of banks totally on board. Several card issuers are offering”CareCards” to consumers for funding procedures. While these CareCards may seem great at first glance, offering super low interest rates and flexible payment plans, in the end they might not be all that. Many of the very enticing introductory interest rates expire quickly, after which, rates shoot straight up faster than a surgeon’s needle – some as high as 27%. Cardholders could also potentially be charged retroactive interest on old balances as punishment for making late payments. Some borrowers, outraged by their astronomical interest charges, have even filed complaints stating they did not understand the terms of the deal.
Many doctors find that patients using credit to pay for procedures to be a boon for business. For certain patients, borrowing money via credit cards make treatments available to them that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. And doctors get their money right away, without all the hassle of chasing after payments.
Some providers have taken their enthusiasm for CareCards a bit too far. Two years ago, in 2009, there was a lawsuit filed in Minnesota by the Minnesota Attorney General against a chiropractic clinic over doctors signing up patients for credit cards without their knowledge or consent.
That being said, there are times when a credit card can sure come in handy, especially at the doctor’s office. Necessary dental work always tends to be expensive, and, to give a shout-out to the medical needs of our furry friends, as are veterinary bills. For those unavoidable situations, having a credit card in your wallet can prove invaluable. But it pays to be smart and selective about what you swipe. One wise move is to investigate some of the low interest rate credit cards that are available and apply for one if you foresee the need to undergo an expensive procedure and will be looking to pay off the balance over several billing cycles.