On July 7, the CFPB, HHS, and Treasury announced a joint inquiry into high-cost specialty financial products which are being offered to patients as alternate forms of payment for routine medical care. Traditionally, these financial products were used to pay for medical care not covered by traditional health insurance such as dental, vision, fertility services, and cosmetic surgery, but are now being offered to pay for a broader set of services. This inquiry is the next step in an ongoing effort to expand research into medical payment products and medical billing and collections procedures to finer tune actions aimed at relieving the burden these products and procedures place on consumers. To this end, the CFPB is seeking public input into the experiences of consumers, financial service providers, and health care providers alike. The CFPB press release noted the following as the primary concerns driving this inquiry:
- There are instances where financial service providers are partnering with health care providers to push products that can drive patients deep into debt. Healthcare providers that enter these partnerships may be disincentivized to explain legally mandated financial assistance programs or zero-interest repayment options before offering these products to patients.
- The complexity of financial assistance programs and insurance programs can cause health care providers extreme difficulties when trying to receive payment for care. These challenges may encourage health care providers to suggest that patients finance their care through specialty credit products. While these products relieve the administrative burden on providers, they do so by shifting the burdens to patients.
Putting It Into Practice: The CFPB, HHS, and Treasury are interested in information relating to the specialty medical payment product market, patient experiences, billing and financial assistance issues, and health care provider incentives. Financial service providers that offer medical payment products may wish to submit comments regarding the interest and fee costs for these products, the statistics on usage such as total outstanding consumer debt on medical credit cards and loans, and incentives offered to health care providers to promote these products and their effects. Such comments may help regulators consider the experiences of financial service providers when weighing further regulation in the medical payment product space. Comments are due no later than 60 days after July 7 to the federal regulations website.