Some medical practices stop taking credit cards

Many patients are being currently forced to finance their co-payments and deductibles with credit cards. But in about one-third of practices, they don't have that option as increasingly more practices are deciding not to accept credit cards, American Medical News said in an article.

According to a recent survey by SK&A Information Services, 28 percent of practices didn't accept plastic as of this April. The figure comes from a telephone survey of 202,650 physician offices nationwide on behalf of a credit card company. The highest rate of acceptance was in plastic surgery, with 91 percent accepting credit cards. Pathology was the lowest, with 21 percent. About 72 percent of family practices accepted credit cards, with internists at about 53 percent and geriatricians at 32 percent.

While SK&A didn't ask practices why they refused credit cards, researchers have concluded that the main reason is growing credit card fees, which suck up 3 to 4 percent off every payment. (Practice managers and consultants have drawn the same conclusion.)

Industry experts, however, say this might be short-sighted, arguing that any lost money is more than made up by collecting more money overall, and spending less time and money to bill and collect via mail. For example, one consultant cites a practice that went from collecting 15 percent of co-pays on the spot in 2007 to 40 percent in 2008, well more than it needed to make up for transaction fees and the $500 machine needed to process the cards.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this American Medical News piece