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Patients using CareCredit for medical bills may get refund

At some point, most everyone in the United States goes to either a doctor or dentist. Medical bills for office visits and procedures deemed medically necessary can be daunting. Many doctors and dentists around the country and here in Florida now offer financing for patients right in their offices.

Approximately 1.2 million patients who thought they signed up for interest free loans or in-house financing actually ended up with a CareCredit account. CareCredit is a medical credit card company. The interest on the balance was deferred until the end of a promotional period. If the patient failed to pay off the balance within that period, the deferred interest and any additional fees were tacked on to the balance. In some cases, the interest rate was as high as 26.99 percent.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently ordered CareCredit to make $34.1 million in refunds of interest and fees charged to customers that were unknowingly signed up for the credit card as far back as 2009. Further, the company must revise is disclosures, advise customers when their promotional period will expire and sign up customers directly for balances over $1,000. Medical and dental office staff can no longer enroll patients with transactions over that amount.

Medical bills are a significant reason why some Florida patients file for bankruptcy protection. It is typically difficult to plan for a medical emergency or chronic illness that could end up costing thousands of dollars, even if a patient has insurance. When a patient struggles to pay medical costs, they often end up behind on other bills as well. However, medical costs and other types of debt can be discharged in a bankruptcy filing, providing patients with a clean financial slate and the ability to start over again without the pressure of unmanageable debt.

 Source: dailylocal.com, CareCredit faces $34.1 million action over enrollment practices, Danielle Douglas, Dec. 13, 2013

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