By Jill Jaracz


5 Min. To Read

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Imagine you're out walking around your town, and you try to cross the street, only to be hit by an oncoming car. The next thing you know, you wake up in the hospital with your leg in a cast and hooked up to a variety of machines, and you have no idea how you got there. While recovery is most important at this point, there could be a question of how you're going to pay for the treatment.

Many insurance plans today require out-of-pocket expenses that could really add up to some exorbitant health care bills, and if you don't have much discretionary income to pay for them, putting them on a credit card seems like the only option.

However, there are ways to pay for medical bills with a different kind of plastic. Some credit card issuers offer health card cards, or medical credit cards--credit cards designed to pay for health care costs--and they may be a better alternative to help manage these types of bills.

Citi, AccessOne and CareCredit are just some of the credit card issuers that offer these cards. With them, consumers can pay for many kinds of medical treatments. Depending on the issuer and the health care provider offering this option, consumers may be able to pay for general medical bills, dental treatments, vision care, cosmetic procedures and even veterinary bills.

Depending on the type of payment plan a health care provider opts for, these cards can offer deferred interest repayment plans or other flexible payment options. This allows patients to pay for medical care, yet keep the limit on their regular credit cards free for other purchases.

For example, health care providers may offer no interest payment plans for a certain amount of time, depending on the amount of the bill in question. They may also offer budget payment plans at a fixed interest rate for a set period of time, deferring interest payments if the full balance isn't paid off in that time period. Health care credit cards can also offer instant approval, allowing people to use them at the time of their medical service.

When looking at a medical credit card as a payment option, be sure to look at the terms of the card, particularly the interest rate that does get applied, and whether or not interest payments are deferred under "no interest payment"-type plans. Compare the interest rate of the medical card against your own personal credit card to see which is the better option for you. Some interest rates can be as high as 26.99%, as it is under the Care Credit program.

There are other ways to pay for health care costs with plastic through employer benefit programs, including Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) cards. These cards act like debit cards to access monies for health care and other medical expenses that qualify under these programs, such as doctor co-pays or prescriptions.

The three programs vary in what they allow people to do with the money put onto them. The HSA is designed to help people with high-deductible health plans save up for future medical bills. Account holders contribute a certain amount money from their paycheck pre-tax, and that money can be invested in order to earn interest. It also rolls over from year to year.

An HRA is similar to the HSA, except that the employer is the only one who's allowed to contribute funds to it.

These plans differ from the FSA, where the contribution works in the same manner, but the funds must be used by the end of the year, or the account holder loses them.

For all three, employers can choose to administer the programs through a card system, which can make it easier for employees to get access to and use their funds, and making paying for medical care less of a hassle.

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