Sometimes what you think will cure you can make matters worse.
Medical credit cards are supposed to bridge the gap when you can't cover health care costs, but they can be as problematic as whatever ails you.
Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took issue with CareCredit, a subsidiary of GE Capital, requiring it to refund $34 million to patients who were deceptively enrolled for its medical credit card.
CareCredit, like other providers, had a deferred interest plan. These plans are touted for their no-interest promotional period. But if patients fail to pay off the entire balance by the time the grace period ends, they're charged interest retroactively. "I have seen balances on these cards rise by hundreds of dollars at the end of the promotion," says Kathryn Moore, a credit counselor with GreenPath Debt solutions in Detroit.
Consumer Action, an advocacy group, recently released its findings on medical credit cards. Interest rates ran from 0 to 28.9 percent, many with deferred interest. On some issuers' websites rates were hidden or incomplete.
These cards aren't hard to get; applications are in doctor, dentist and veterinarian offices. "There is a high approval rate," says Leslie Tayne, a Melville attorney specializing in debt issues.
Look for help elsewhere: Find out if you qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Negotiate with your doctor: See if you can arrange to pay your bill over time.
The bottom line: Medical credit cards can be confusing. When you're burdened with health issues, the last thing you need is a financial headache too.