by Jeff Sovern
The Times published an article on medical debt earlier this week, Patients Mired in Costly Credit From Doctors. The gist of the article was that doctors establish relationships with lenders which then give credit to patients so that patients can obtain medical treatment. That sounds innocent, and even helpful, to patients who might not otherwise be able to finance needed treatment. But there are problems. Doctors recommending lenders may think more about the fact if patients can't obtain financing, the doctors will lost business than of their patients' best interests. Consequently, doctors may suggest lenders who lend on poor terms. Another problem, not really discussed in the article, is that the trust patients feel for their doctors may cause patients to follow doctors' recommendations for a lender without comparison shopping, especially at times of vulnerability. That may result in patients opting for bad deals and undermines the federal Truth in Lending Act which is designed to facilitate comparison shopping.
My own view is that lawmakers should oblige doctors recommending lenders to use the same high standards they use in recommending treatment. If doctors bank on that trust, it should be warranted