Dr. Paternalism?

Here’s a curious one (One-third of physician practices do not accept credit card payments)

Thirty-three percent of U.S. physician offices do not accept credit cards as a form of payment, according to a new survey. This represents a 5 percent increase since a similar survey was conducted last year.

The Physician Office Credit-Card Acceptance Survey, by SK&A Information Services, an Irvine, Calif.-based provider of healthcare information solutions and research, suggests physician practices are limiting this form of payment because patients are being adversely affected by high interest rates, maxed out credit limits and a more challenging ability to qualify for credit. [emphasis mine]

I’ll plan to call SK&A next week to clarify this but it sounds like a bunch of baloney. Since when are doctors so concerned about patient finances that they feel the need to stop accepting credit cards in order to protect patients? Personally, I like to pay my medical bills with a credit card. It helps with record keeping and I get cash back and I’d be pretty ticked off if my doctor decided to revert to cash and check only.

My suspicion is that if physicians really are reducing their acceptance of credit cards –which I don’t take as a given– it could be because they don’t want to pay the processing charges. That could be penny wise and pound foolish because of the added cost of billing and collecting from patients who can’t use their plastic.

I suspect most doctors would rather let a patient charge his/her bills and pay high interest rates rather than risk non-payment.

June 5, 2009

2 thoughts on “Dr. Paternalism?”

  1. I also wonder how much of it has to do with consumers disputing the charges after the fact, and whether resolving the dispute with the CC company is cumbersome. Cash and check might be less susceptible to failed payments, especially given the laws in most states regarding bounced checks.

  2. This is a very interesting statistic, if indeed the survey is on target. However, my immediate reaction is to question its accuracy, since my personal experience has been completely different. I am unaware of a physician, hospital or other provider that will not accept a universal credit card (Mastercard, VISA or Amex)as a means of payment for services. This survey outcome is also quite interesting because other studies show that medical providers are feeling the pain of uncollectible patient balances for services rendered. Reports I’ve read suggest that 30% or more of a typical provider’s AR ends up as a write off, after consideration of third party collections. It seems that any prudent business would rather accept payment via credit card (despite inherent costs and dispute mechanisms)than chase debt directly or through third party collections.

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