Cuomo probes health care credit cards

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 5, 2010, 10:50am


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday his office has issued subpoenas to 10 health care providers statewide and four financial institutions in an investigation into predatory health care lending.

The investigation, prompted by more than 200 consumer complaints, involves health care credit cards, a newer way of paying for services at providers such as dentists, chiropractors, infertility clinics, weight loss clinics and veterinarians.

Cuomo said the cards violate the state's consumer protection laws because they are offered with deceptive tactics.

"Consumers reported that health care providers promised that the credit card had 'no interest,' when it often carried retroactive interest of over 25 percent if not paid in full during a promotional period," his office said.

"Consumers were also unknowingly charged up front for services they never received, and their attempts to obtain refunds were often thwarted or ignored."

Investigators also contend the companies provide kickbacks to the providers.

Cuomo said many consumers, especially seniors and other vulnerable patients, are misled about financing, causing them to be pushed into debt.

"Health care debt is the No. 1 cause of individual bankruptcy, and this scheme is contributing to the economic burden being felt by consumers," Cuomo said in a statement.

"People are being tricked by misleading offers that have them paying for services they never received as well as interest charges they never knew about -- and they are ignored and given the runaround when they try to get their money back."

Cuomo issued subpoenas to 10 providers that promote CareCredit, as well as to the companies that manage CareCredit, Chase Health Advance, Visa Health Benefits and Citibank Health Card.

In addition, Cuomo, a gubernatorial candidate, is asking several medical associations, including the American Dental Association, to explain why they endorsed CareCredit and whether they received any compensation for doing so.

CareCredit is accepted by more than 125,000 health care practices nationwide. The New York State Dental Association asserts that more than 8 million dental patients and 80,000 dental practices use CareCredit nationwide.

For Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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