Once again this week another article on dentistry appeared in The New York Times – this time the article “Patients Mired in Costly Credit From Doctors” is featured on the top left hand column on the front page. Dentists should only be so lucky for something good next time! The link is: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/14/business/economy/patients-mired-in-costly-credit-from-doctors.html. The article exposes excesses of medical and dental credit cards, in particular CareCredit for dental work. The article, in my judgment, is accurate and is a sad commentary on the ethics of some of my colleagues. The gist of it is that these credit cards are being misrepresented. They are often marketed by dental staff to people who don’t have the means to pay back the charges in a timely fashion. The interest terms can be excessive. The dental staff does not always explain all of the conditions to the credit card. Sometimes people don’t even realize that they have signed up for a credit card and one with high interest rates, at that. Sometimes unnecessary work is performed. Sometimes excessive fees are charged. One Florida retiree was paying back at an annual interest rate of about 23 percent, with a 33 percent penalty rate added on if she missed a payment. Now, her minimum monthly dental bill, at a total of $214, is a third of her Social Security payment. If she is late, she pays a penalty of $50. “I am worried that I will be paying for this until I die,” she says.
My office does accept CareCredit. But we are very concerned that our patients use the card properly. We are very careful to explain the conditions of the credit card. We never overcharge or recommend work that is not needed. Sometimes the card can be very helpful as it makes needed dental work affordable. It can be a life-saver.
Last summer consumer protections were added to CareCredit in New York State when the State Attorney General and CareCredit reached an agreement to alter the terms of the card. An office can only charge out for dental work that was performed. It is also easier for the patient to be reimbursed or to cancel the card. This is a step in the right direction. Please call us at 631 751-4433 if you have questions or concerns about CareCredit. We will be happy to help.