whole amount paid off by the end of your term. The most popular service that I’m aware of is Care Credit. Over 100,000 medical providers now accept Care Credit.

Care Credit operates the same way as a Home Depot card. It is an “interest free” credit card as long as you make the minimum monthly payment, and pay off the whole amount within the allotted payment plan. The catch is that if you make the minimum monthly payments, you won’t have the whole amount paid off within the allotted payment plan.

For example, let’s say you pay for your $1,000 surgery deductible with Care Credit on a 12 month plan. You make your minimum monthly payment every month of $55. However, at month 12, you get your last statement and the balance is $490. You have to make a balloon payment to pay off the balance, or they will back-date the interest on the whole balance at a pretty high interest rate.

Providers love Care Credit because it pays them upfront just like a credit card, and they can close your account. The provider doesn’t have to call you every month, doesn’t have to send you statements, and doesn’t have to send anybody to collections

The chapter entitled “Things to know if you don’t have insurance” described the four largest public insurance programs in the U.S. These are Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and COBRA.

However, each state in the U.S. has unique public insurance programs that others may not. The Foundation for Health Coverage Education has assembled a very useful matrix that identifes the unique eligibility requirements, costs, benefts, and contact information for eight programs in each state. FHCE also has a 24-hour hotline with consultants that will help you fnd programs for which you are eligible. This matrix is an excellent free resource that can be downloaded at www.coverageforall.org.

I have attached a similar, but smaller matrix in the appendix that includes eligibility criteria for Medicaid and SCHIP in each state.

72 // The Medical Bill Survival Guide