Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Debt trap in a doctor's office

Consumers beware. There is another credit product being slyly marketed that comes with high interest rates and steep penalties. It may be right in the office of your doctor or dentist. For cash-strapped consumers, the come-ons sound like a quick solution to covering costly services. In truth, it's a debt trap.

Doctors and dentists are using new consumer finance options to help patients pay bills. What patients often don't understand is that they are not signing up with their medical provider for short-term credit. They are contracting with a national finance company or major bank for a costly loan that can come with interest rates of more than 20 percent and penalty interest rates after a missed payment of more than 30 percent, according to the New York Times.

This form of lending poses many risks for patients. The loan is marketed through a trusted medical practitioner's office, making consumers less aware of the potential for predatory lending. Patients can be asked to commit to yearslong loans while in pain or as they try to get a health problem fixed, making them highly motivated to go along. Meanwhile, medical practitioners can often get paid in full minus an administrative fee, which encourages additional and more expensive services.

Financial services companies are jumping into the business after seeing their profits cut by new regulations protecting financial consumers. Medical credit cards and other types of financing services are offered by General Electric and large banks, including Wells Fargo and Citibank. Some lenders promise doctors and dentists they will dispense with a credit check on patients, meaning loans are given to people who have no proven ability to repay them. Putting patients into unaffordable, high-interest loans to obtain medical services is a form of financial exploitation.

There have been so many complaints of patients being misled on the financial terms and high-pressure sales tactics that attorneys general in some states have filed lawsuits. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office is reviewing 19 complaints it has received since January 2013 on CareCredit, a unit of General Electric. Eleven complaints are against CareCredit directly and eight are against dentists who used CareCredit. This area is also ripe for regulation by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Caring for patients includes protecting them from unfair deals. The American Medical Association and the American Dental Association should oppose this kind of credit for any patient who cannot afford it.

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Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
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Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
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William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

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The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
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Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18