Consumers’ Corner: How to Get the Best Deal Out of Health Care Financing
By Danielle Briones
Published on September 26, 2007
* names have been changed to protect privacy.
I remember working as a shopgirl in a designer boutique in downtown La Jolla a few years ago when two of the young girls I worked with started discussing breast augmentation surgery and how they could possibly afford to pay for such an expensive procedure.
One of the girls, Kerri*, had already had her breasts done. Lindsay* was on the verge of undergoing the procedure, but still needed to work out the whole, ahem, financial aspect.
“Financing,” Kerri stated. “That’s how I got mine done.”
As they went on to discuss the varying financing rates and the companies that offered elective health care financing, it finally dawned on me. Some of the people I had met in Los Angeles and San Diego during the past few years – the ones I knew had undergone rhinoplasty, breast enlargement, and liposuction procedures – might not have had a chunk of cash readily available to cover the cost of thousands of dollars worth of cosmetic upgrades.
Silly me. Cash-pay health care is a multi-billion dollar industry, so naturally there are hundreds of local and national health care financing companies out there to help Americans like Kerri and Lindsay pay for what many consider to be lifelong dreams. What I was soon to learn, however, is that these companies also finance those whose dreams go beyond improving their appearance.
That’s right. Health care financing isn’t just available to help people reach their aesthetic ideals through cosmetic surgery and dentistry procedures. It’s also available for those seeking fertility treatment, vision care, and bariatric surgery.
A Tropical Oasis?
We all know that financing is designed to break the cost of purchases up into affordable monthly payments. But is it too good to be true? Is health care financing a good option for you?
When I decided to dip my toes into the pool of companies that offer health care financing before undergoing LASIK surgery, I found out that it can be a great solution. You just need to find a plan that works with your budget – and stick to it.
The first thing I did before undergoing treatment was to conduct a little online research on such prominent elective health care financing companies as Capital One®, CareCredit®, and Unicorn® Financial. So what do these companies have to say about the plans they offer?
Unicorn® Financial – Looking Out for the Best Interest of Patients and Doctors
The DocShop team recently met with Roger Giannico, Unicorn® Financial's vice president of sales, to find out what makes his company unique. He stressed that his company looks out for both the patient and doctor.
"Unicorn® Financial has been in business for more than 10 years,” stated Giannico. “The sales force is set up and segmented by specialty to improve customer service at all levels."
In addition to company's focus on customer service, it offers extended or interest-free financing plans. Doctors select the plans they want to offer, and patients can apply for financing at the physician's office.
According to Giannico, "Unicorn®'s basic premise is that offering no-interest financing for 6, 12, 18, and 24 months will help medical and dental practices, making their treatment plans and procedures more affordable."
The Freedom to Choose with CareCredit®
Over the past 20 years, CareCredit® has offered financing to more than six million applicants interested in undergoing elective health care procedures. Offering promotional no-interest plans, as well as extended payment plans for those undergoing more expensive procedures, CareCredit® places emphasis on the importance of choosing the doctor who is right for you.
"What CareCredit® does is allow patients to choose the doctor based on the doctor's qualifications," says Matt Boller, a CareCredit® representative who has worked with the company for more than five years.
"Using a financing offer such as CareCredit®, you can choose the doctor that you are the most comfortable with and know that you can afford their procedure rather than choosing simply the doctor with the lowest price."
Of all the health care financing companies out there, Capital One® is perhaps the most well-known. The company offers a range of credit, loan, and savings programs to customers in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. And with more than 30,000 providers in the health care network, it's easy to find a doctor who works with Capital One®.
If the Shoe Fits, Wear It
The big three of health care financing offer a range of financing plans; however, not all doctors offer plans through each of these companies. If you have already found a doctor to perform your procedure, find out which financing plans he or she offers. If you are leaning toward using a specific company to finance your procedure, find a practice that offers plans through that company.
My Personal Closing Statement
Once you select a plan and are approved, the best thing you can do is follow this advice: Stick to your payment schedule. If you don't, you will need to make up for it the next month and it could result in higher interest rates and possible late fees. Refer to your financing contract and make sure you understand the terms of your agreement to avoid future penalties.
Health Care Financing Tips:
• Make sure you get a low interest rate, preferably ranging from 0-15 percent.
• Shorter loan periods typically result in lower interest rates.
• Pay for a portion of the procedure up-front, in cash, to reduce the cost of your total loan.
• Some companies offer promotional payment plans, through which your loan will be interest-free if you pay it off within a set period.
• Make sure you understand your contract and all penalty fees you may be responsible for paying.
• You may be subject to higher interest rates if you have a poor credit score.