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Put it on credit.

Consumers are used to whipping out credit cards to pay for clothes, meals, gasoline and the like.

How about using a credit card to pay a hospital bill?

It is becoming more common, according to Steve Owen, president of CompleteCare Inc. of Little Rock.

CompleteCare is a credit card company that specializes in health care. Just like when applying for American Express or Visa cards, consumers interested in CompleteCare cards apply for lines of credit. There is a difference, however. One need not pass a credit check to receive CompleteCare.

"Every patient gets a $5,000 line of credit and a CompleteCare card," Owen says. "We run a credit check. If you pass the check, we pay the doctor or hospital that amount up front. If you do not pass, you still get a $5,000 line of credit and a card. But we pay the doctor and the hospital as we get paid by the patient."

Medical credit cards have been on the market for about three years. Since health care is a $700 billion-per-year industry, major credit companies are beginning to test the waters.

Visa and Mastercard are running pilot projects with health-care credit cards, and American Express has tested a medical credit card in New England.

The problem with some of the cards is the credit check requirement, according to Owen.

"Only about 20 percent of patients can pass a credit check," Owen says. "Doctors and hospitals get frustrated when they send in 100 applications and only 20 are approved."

The only requirement for CompleteCare is that a patient have some source of income, even if it is unemployment pay.

CompleteCare runs the program with Beneficial National Bank USA of New Jersey. The program began in August.

So far, members of the CompleteCare network include Doctors Hospital at Little Rock, AMI National Park Medical Center at Hot Springs, the Medical Center of South Arkansas at El Dorado and about 150 doctors.

CompleteCare has participating doctors in 48 states.
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Title Annotation:CompleteCare Inc. specializes in health care credit cards
Author:Webb, Kane
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Feb 3, 1992
Words:331
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