Several federal agencies have announced plans to scrutinize medical credit cards, loans and other financial products used to pay for health care. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services and Department of the Treasury jointly released a request for information about the prevalence and nature of these products, as well as their impact on consumers and consumer protections.

“This inquiry builds on the department’s work to protect patients from unfair billing practices, lower costs and increase transparency in our health-care system,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “Hearing directly from patients about their experiences will help shape policies that can prevent families from incurring medical debt.”

Medical payment products once were used primarily to pay for care not traditionally covered by health insurance plans, such as dental and vision care, fertility services and cosmetic surgery. However, they now are used to also pay for a broader set of services, including emergency room visits and primary and specialty care. Even when medical care otherwise may be covered by insurance or financial assistance, patients may be pitched these products by their health-care providers, who then pass the administration of patient billing and collections on to financial service companies.

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