I originally wrote this post in late 2011 to emphasize the fact that one does have options when faced with a dental emergency without the benefit of dental insurance. I still believe that in these situations a card like CareCredit is a valuable service despite my aversion to recommend credit card financing in general. If you can expend the effort to pay off the balance within the promotional period, you get out of the dental situation at cost and can use the card again in the future with a new promotional offer with similar terms.
At the time that this occurred, we had just finished purchasing a new used car to replace a paid-off vehicle we lost in a flash flood and were in an entirely cash-strapped situation. This card, and any cards like it that may be released in the future, are handy for helping you out when one bad thing occurs on top of another. An added perk of them is that they cannot be used in regular stores – only for dental care, vision, cosmetic procedures, hearing services, or veterinary expenses. With all this being said, here is my original article (Note the X-Ray to the left is not my own):
Facing a dental emergency without any health or dental insurance is a difficult situation I recently faced. Because of a pre-existing condition and my status as a self-employed person, I was recently turned down for a health insurance policy and haven’t yet been able to apply for my state’s pre-existing condition insurance pool that was created as part of Obama’s healthcare reform program. Even with health insurance, my dental emergency would have still been an out-of-pocket expense I couldn’t afford without a little help.
When I felt a tooth act up in late November, I gave it a day or two to make sure I wasn’t confusing gum irritation with a more serious problem. After I was sure I needed to see a dentist, I sought out dental offices in my area that allowed for a partial upfront payment or a payment plan. I couldn’t find a traditional dentist that offered an installment plan like my parents used when I was a child, but I did locate a local clinic that sees both dental and medical patients on a sliding scale fee basis.
Based on our family’s income in 2010, I qualified for dental care at a $30 minimum charge. My dentist X-rayed my mouth and determined that I needed oral surgery to remove two impacted wisdom teeth on the bottom. One was fully erupted out of the jaw and gums and had developed a cavity while the other impacted sideways. I also had two on top that were optional for immediate removal but could become problems in the future. Because my pre-existing condition is Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a disease also known as brittle bone disorder or glass bones, I opted for removal of all four to avoid future issues with my bones.
The dental clinic I visited is not outfitted for oral surgeries, so I received a referral to a local oral surgeon. Again, I couldn’t afford the oral surgery out-of-pocket and had to seek out alternative financing for the cost of the extractions. My mom offered to help me pay with her medical credit card, but I chose to apply for one myself. I received instant approval for $2,000 from CareCredit. My wisdom teeth extraction and the optional IV I chose to ensure I didn’t cause problems during the surgery ended up using a little more than $1,800 of the credit line. However, I managed to secure a deal for 0% interest for 12-months on the total.
If I don’t pay off the total within that time period, I must pay the accrued high-rate interest charges of 24.99%. I plan on paying off the total within the twelve months by paying $100 a month for the remainder of the winter and then upping the total to $200 throughout the spring and summer which will leave me right on schedule to pay off the loan at $100 to $125 a month for the last three months.
After the card is paid off, I will have $2,000 free for any future medical or dental visits. The CareCredit line allows for promotional financing for each new visit, so with a careful repayment plan, I can budget in some preventative care in the future instead of waiting for problems to develop – a welcome relief for someone who needs braces again but would rather budget the expense over time instead of paying out the cash in the present.
Updated note: I did pay off the card in time to avoid interest.
Disclosure: This is not a promotional post and no compensation was offered. It is just one person’s experience. At this time, I do not know of any other company’s that offers credit cards focused on a variety of medical procedures. Many facilities offer in-house financing, but that is not as versatile as the CareCredit program offered by GE. CapitalOne once had a medical credit card, but quit accepting new applications for it in recent years though existing account holders, like my mother, retain their cards. A new program could appear at any time, and if it offered similar terms, would fit the context of this post as well as CareCredit did.