Mercyhealth taps Synchrony to expand financing options as patients' out-of-pocket expenses grow

Seven-hospital health system Mercyhealth is teaming up with financial services company Synchrony to expand financing options for patients to pay for care over time.

As part of the partnership, Mercyhealth’s nearly 2.5 million patients will access to Synchrony’s CareCredit credit card for precare, point-of-care and postcare payment. The healthcare credit card has also been integrated into Mercyhealth’s Epic MyChart patient management platform, the health system said.

Synchrony's CareCredit card will be accepted at Mercyhealth's seven hospitals and 85 primary and specialty care locations. The regional health system serves 55 northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin communities.

RELATED: Medical billing startup Cedar to acquire OODA Health for $425M to tackle insurance market

As out-of-pocket healthcare expenses such as deductibles and copays continue to rise, the health system wanted to find a financing solution to provide a flexible payment option for patients and their families. 

The partnership gives patients a flexible financing option to pay for their care not covered by insurance, including elective procedures, copays, deductibles and coinsurance.

Patients can apply for the credit card on a mobile device or computer, in a provider's office or over the phone and can select from short-term and long-term financing options when processing a payment. Additionally, patients can use the CareCredit payment calculator to help estimate their monthly payments based on the amount of care financed and the financing option selected. 

“Mercyhealth is committed to finding solutions to improve the lives of our patients and their families, which includes providing options to finance their medical journeys,” said Kimberly Scaccia, vice president, revenue cycle at Mercyhealth in a statement. “This partnership allows us to offer patients flexible payment options across all points of care and service lines so they can get the care they want or need.” 

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Synchrony’s healthcare credit card is accepted at more than 250,000 provider and health-focused retail locations including 20 health systems and has more than 11 million cardholder accounts, according to the company.

Fintech takes aim at healthcare

The U.S. healthcare payments system is ripe for disruption. With the rising cost of healthcare, patients' financial burden is expected to grow. 

Consumer out-of-pocket spending on healthcare is set to hit an estimated $491.6 billion, or about $1,650 per person, in the U.S. in 2021. The number is a roughly 10% increase over last year’s total and is expected to maintain a continual annual growth rate of 9.9% for the next five years, according to healthcare market research group Kalorama Information.

Nearly one in three American households have delayed medical care due to its cost, per a 2019 Gallup poll.  

That opens up an opportunity for tech startups to improve the financial experience for patients and help providers collect more of what patients owe. 

Healthcare fintech startup PayZen works with healthcare systems to offer patients zero-interest, fee-free payment plans. The company scored a $15 million series A funding round in November. Another startup, Walnut, also offers financial services intended to assist people in healthcare financing. 

Cedar, a patient payment and engagement platform for hospitals, health systems and medical groups, has steadily grown and works with more than 35 health systems. The company has raised $351 million in funding to date, according to Crunchbase.

Cedar offers patient-personalized medical billing and previsit technology and in 2021 it acquired OODA Health to tackle the insurance side of the market in a $425 million deal.