Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol Newsletter, August 2014

August, 2014 Monthly News You Can Use

Permission granted to reprint these articles with credit given to Iowa SMP.   

“Medical Credit Cards”

            Iowans should take note of a growing trend for certain types of health care providers to offer “medical credit cards” or financing options. The take-away message is that these types of credit cards and financing are not necessarily a good deal just because they are relatively new and connected to your medical care.  Most often the types of health care providers that offer them are dentists, opticians, hearing clinics and cosmetic services (plus veterinarians!).    These medical services are usually not covered by Medicare and not often by other health insurance companies so they are expensive for patients.  But a recent study (GAO-14-570) by the U.S. General Accounting Office, reported important details for patients to consider. 

In the GAO survey of medical credit cards and other financing plans, it was not uncommon for interest to be as much as 17.99 percent and even up to and over 26.99 percent.  Very often, a special deal is offered for opening an account, zero percent for a certain length of time.  But once the promotional period ends if the balance is not paid in full, for many accounts, interest is charged retroactively.   

Don’t assume that a credit card or financing option offered for your medical care is good just because it’s for something necessary to your health.  Use common sense, do research and get all the facts before you open this type of account.  The Federal Trade Commission has free information available to help you decide if a credit offer may be right for you.   Go to http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/money-credit  for this information. 

Current Scams Bombard Iowans

            Letters about your Property Deed    A review of newspaper articles all around Iowa reveals that Iowans are receiving letters from a private business offering to provide them a copy of their property deed for a fee of nearly $100.  The letter is written in a way to convince the reader there’s been some recent changes in their deed and they must obtain a copy.  Many of Iowa’s county recorder offices have issued warnings that these letters are not official notices and that they are not directly tied to any changes in records.  In addition, if you need a copy of your property records, in almost all cases, the fees are very small. 

            E-mails from Internal Revenue Service (IRS)    These malicious messages try to convince you they are from the IRS regarding a refund owed to you; the sender wants you to click on a link in the e-mail.  It is not safe to click on a link in a message from a stranger.  Government agencies do not inform you of taxes you owe or refunds they owe you, through an e-mail.   

            Unexpected Phone Calls Asking for your Business    Eastern Iowa has reported many “spoofed” phone calls in which the caller makes the caller ID on your phone, show a local number or local business name; this is to convince you it’s safe to answer the call.  (People who have certain technology can use caller ID to lie about who they are.)  The Iowans who answered these calls were bombarded with sales calls for car warranties and credit reduction services.  Don’t rely on the caller ID on your phone to prove the caller is on the up and up!  Use your own good listening skills to decide if it’s legitimate or if you want, let the caller leave a message. 

  • News prepared by Deb Yankey, Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol Coordinator, Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A), Waterloo, IA,  dyankey@nei3a.org

This document was supported, in part, by Grant #90MP0161-03, from the Administration for Community Living/Administration on Aging, Department of Health and Human Services.  Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions.  Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration on Aging policy.     

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